Thursday, September 25, 2014

To NA or not to NA?

I have a question and possibly a request for you savvy readers out there.

I have written what I believed to be a science fiction romance. I am now wondering whether it is New Adult--or really, whether it would sell well as New Adult if I tried to spin it that way.

From what I hear, New Adult is primarily categorized that way because of two things: its characters' ages, and the themes it covers. The ages are early adulthood. The themes are finding one's feet in the adult world, perhaps tackling college/first job/serious relationships--and sometimes there are some identity-related speed bumps. However, the New Adult that's selling is overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) romance-oriented, and the truth is that speculative fiction has been featuring characters of New Adult ages for a long time without calling it New Adult. It might just come down to tone. Help!

I'm really thinking about cleaning up this manuscript and showing it to my agent. Before I do that, I might like some advice and possibly even a couple of new beta readers for it. It's already in good shape (I think), but if anyone who reads a decent amount of New Adult wants to read it and help me figure this out--especially if you read New Adult romantic stories that aren't necessarily romance-tropey--I'd love to hear from you.

Reasons I think it might be New Adult/Science Fiction Romance rather than just Adult/Science Fiction Romance:
  • There's a lot of identity stuff in it--maybe too much for traditional "adult" readers to enjoy.
  • The characters do a lot of typical young adult stuff--there's some fairly immature behavior.
  • The characters are all Internet-savvy--there's a fair amount of texting, using video chat, forum discussion, Internet culture.
  • The stakes are pretty low. I don't think this is the case with all New Adult books, but sometimes New Adult as a category seems more tolerant of the main thing being when, how, and whether the characters get together.
  • The voice just doesn't feel altogether "Adult" to me. But it's definitely not YA, so it could kinda go either way.
Reasons it could just be Adult Science Fiction Romance:
  • New Adult does skew heavily toward expectations of a female POV. This is male POV. My romantic lead is the dude.
  • Though both romantic characters are in some kind of transition, it doesn't necessarily feel like a "kid-to-adult" transition. The protagonist is a college grad who's been in his job for several years, and this is not his first serious relationship. The love interest is younger--only twenty-one--and didn't go to school, and from her POV it might be more of a NA story, but it's not from her POV.
  • I just don't know the audience for NA as well as I know the audience for Adult SF, so I probably have written it skewed toward the familiar.
  • It's maybe on the long side for NA but pretty standard for Adult SF, not so much Romance. (Oh, what, you're surprised something I wrote was long?)
So, if you're interested in beta-reading it or asking me some questions to help me figure this out, comment here or contact me in one of the ways available through the "contact" button at the top of my blog.

Here's a bit about the story so you can decide if you want to meet these guys.

Word Count: 100K

Camera guy Nick Harris lives in a rational world--or so he thought. He’s no longer sure what’s real when the enigmatic Summer Astley appears on his news show displaying genuine telekinetic powers . . . and a charming smile. As mutual attraction brings them together, Summer reluctantly trusts Nick with her secret doubts and heartbreaking loneliness, leaving him puzzling over how to pursue a down-to-earth romance with a girl who can fly.

Little doodle of the couple! ;)
But Summer isn’t the only one with unusual abilities. Nick’s got a knack for understanding other people--sometimes to the point that he accurately guesses their thoughts. Summer, eager to connect with someone like herself, presses Nick to accept that his “good people skills” are far from ordinary, but Nick isn’t buying it. And he certainly doesn’t want it to be true. After all, being too perceptive creeps girls out and gets guys dumped.

As a strained long-distance relationship develops between them, Summer and Nick battle shared challenges and personal demons. Summer struggles to balance her supergirl public image with her love life, unintentionally pushing Nick away in the wake of a recent loss. And Nick is starting to think he can't handle the occupational hazards of dating a super-powered celebrity, especially since the distance between them is maddening--he's never tried to conduct a romance from across state lines without the subtle cues he's used to. With their unsteady partnership always on the verge of toppling, Nick is ready to pick a direction for the fall. After all, no girl has ever swept him off his feet quite so literally.


  1. My understanding is that NA is still a very small market segment. Also, you have a word count at 100K. For these two reasons, I'd brand as adult SF.

    1. Yeah, it is small, and I was thinking that might actually work for me here--that if it fits the specifics, it might get snatched up. (I don't know that it's big-pub material.) Word count can always be cut, and I'm always up for that if necessary. But what I'm most interested in is how its tone and storytelling matches. I'm still leaning toward thinking of it as an adult story, but I want some NA buffs to weigh in and hear what they say. :)

  2. o-e So granted, I don't know that much about the market, but the friends I have that read NA specifically seek it out for the college setting. I'm sure there are NA books that don't take place in college, but I don't know if they're the norm? Or even if they're accepted by publishers often.

    I know I read the first three chapters or so of this book (and...then I think I forgot to email you the feedback @_@ and that is my regret) but I thought the voice was pretty adult-ish. I'm going off memory, but it's what I remember o-e

    You should totes give it to your agent though 8D I'd love to finally read the book in full >.>

    1. Yeah, it's not a college story--and I have another book that is definitely going to be spun as New Adult and happens in college. That's just not definitive of the category as far as I'm concerned. I think the voice could go either way, but I did initially conceive of it as adult--just wanted to see if any New Adult smarty-pantses might crawl out of the woodwork and give me some hints about whether spinning it as New Adult might actually improve its chances. It's a bit of a niche, but if you FIT that niche. . . .

  3. I write pretty non-traditional NA, but I'm also indie. My protagonists are widows, homeless, college graduates, or girls who just haven't been to college. NA, in the broadest sense, is a coming of age story. The struggles are new to them, or they're dealing with things on their own for the first time. The voice is critical.

    That being said, I took my NA contemp. romance to a big 5 editor at a conference and she wouldn't even consider it because my 21 year old military widow wasn't a traditional college student. That was this spring. However, my publicist, who handles some big names in the category, is extremely excited about it. So you're right, it will probably appeal to a smaller house, but don't think that doesn't mean that it won't have readers.

    From what you tell us here, it seems like romance is very important to the plot, even if it is sci-fi. I think it really depends on Nick (you don't tell us who old he is), his voice, and if his story is a coming of age story. If it was told from Summer's POV, I'd say it's NA. But I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger on this. You may have an adult sci-fi romance.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Kristen. I think what I've written is maybe of interest to a niche audience rather than a large one, but one never knows unless one asks! If my agent likes it, she'll probably want to try the big houses first, but I wouldn't mind this one going to a smaller house at all.

      I wouldn't say Nick's is a coming-of-age story. I think coming-of-age in NA is different from YA--not quite as overt--but the identity stuff that I do tackle isn't associated with maturity. Nick is 25 in the book. I didn't conceive it as a NA when I wrote it, and think it's more likely that it's a straight-up adult book with young characters, but since I don't read as much NA as some of the buffs I know, I thought I'd feel it out to see if anyone thought I should move in that direction with framing it in the pitch.