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Burgeoning Genre Face-Off: “New Adult” vs. “Coming of Old Age”

6 January 2013

From Gawker:

If there is one thing that brings joy to my heart, it is charting the growth of newly invented genres. You can argue over whether trend pieces about “new adult” fiction or “baby boomer” literature are describing truly original developments or ginned-up marketing terms with no relation to measurable changes in book-buying practices (in fact, our very own Katie Baker has already done so in a very neat analysis). But at a certain point the distinction becomes meaningless; talk about “new adult” fiction long enough and Amazon will eventually dedicate a department to it.

. . . .

Can this new genre be pegged to the success of young adult literature?

Coming of old age:

A new genre is born, a pendant to Young Adult literature, with one difference: Baby Boomer novels address “coming of old age” issues just as Young Adult novels are concerned with just coming of age.

New adult:

They’ve labeled this category “new adult” – which some winkingly describe as Harry Potter meets “50 Shades of Grey” – and say it is aimed at 18-to-25-year-olds, the age group right above young adult.

Boomer lit isn’t “just like” coming of age literature: it’s better. Point Boomers.

. . . .

Can you draw unsubstantiated comparisons with existing media properties?

Coming of old age:

Recent Baby Boomer movies, such as Red, Hope Springs, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, have all been smashing successes.

Yet most movies are based on books and perhaps, historically, the first book that led to a hugely successful movie, was Louis Begley’s About Schmidt in 2002. The movie was only loosely based on the novel, but Jack Nicholson’s star performance made it memorable. And it certainly opened the way to the new Baby Boomer genre.

New adult:

The goal is to retain young readers who have loyally worked their way through series like Harry Potter, “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight.”

Coming of old age goes for a reach, dropping unrelated movie titles and a 10-year-old film in the same breath, but Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Twilight makes for an unbeatable hat trick. Point new adults.

Link to the rest at Gawker and thanks to Claude for the tip.

Books in General, YA

7 Comments to “Burgeoning Genre Face-Off: “New Adult” vs. “Coming of Old Age””

  1. This is only possible because of digital publishing and writers suddenly having the freedom write what they want and getting it to readers instead of dragging the millstone of (I’m editing myself as I go along here) New York City predominately young urban professional editors deciding that no one wants that “crap”-whatever the “crap du jour” being pitched to them is and having books and ideas killed before they were born.

    I did the boomer babe thing 10 years ago and was rebuffed mightily. Longer ago than that I pitched romantic comedies and the genius editor said to me–so exact because I remember words–“If there was a market for that, it would be there already.”

    Fast forward to Bridget Jones and the Niagara Falls of chicklitty romantic comedies.

    There is a market for what people want to read, not just what’s forced on them by the ultra elitist super-smart publishing curation machine.

  2. Looking over the comments to the Gawker article, I couldn’t help but be amused by claudenougat2’s comment (Apologies if this is the same Claude…). He kept referring to BB lit, and I couldn’t help but remember those adverts in the comics of my youth – the ones for ‘air rifles’ which shot those little tiny inconsequential pellets… I don’t think that is what he had in mind. 🙂

  3. I have two opinions on the new genres.

    1) WOOHOO that there’s more freedom in indie publishing to write what we want to let the market choose what it likes.

    2) I am soooo confused. What is what anymore? Do I list my book about aliens romancing humans with in between violent gun fights with zombie-like creature on a world they arrived at through a wormhole, which presents numerous mysteries and plot twists under science fiction/romance/adventure? Or science fiction/paranormal/romance? Or romance/paranormal/action/adventure?

    OMG… too many choices, and then when readers find it under what they consider the ‘wrong’ list of genres they’re ‘disappointed’ and leave bad reviews because they were expecting werewolf sex and BSDM even though it wasn’t listed under erotica/paranormal.


    • Welcome to the new world, H.G.

      It’s better if you make up your own genre. Then they can’t complain.

      • I’ll do what my niece has done when making up her genre. She’s ten and her school library had fiction and non-fiction. So she read a fiction book (that she loved) about a bed-ridden girl who lived a virtual life. Before I knew the plot, I asked her what type of story it was and she said, “It’s fiction that hasn’t happened yet but could.”

        Well said, Emma. Well said.

        Plus, how awesome is it that she’s a scifi reader already. *happy dance*

  4. Oh. Ack. Right now I feel a Bill the Cat hairball coming on.
    The labels are all marketing techniques, just like the YA label morphed into a marketing technique. Most of the YA books I’ve tried to read were far from YA. Perhaps New Adult is a better euphemism/marketing tool. Who knows?

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