Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Is "New Adult" the new "Young Adult" reader age category?

I came across the term "New Adult" recently as an emerging reader age range (not "genre" as it is often mislabelled) and wondered what it was. After all, we already have Young Adult and Adult fiction...

What's the gap in the market that New Adult claims to fill?
What is New Adult anyway?

As with "Young Adult" - its well established predecessor - the definitions can vary widely enough to confuse.

What's "Young Adult"?

Young Adult can also be described as "young adult literature" or "juvenile fiction" - and is often given the acronym "YA". It's generally aimed at adolescents/teenagers and young adults, although many adults read YA work.You could characterize a YA novel by use of a teen protagonist, key issues relating to that age range as a focus for the storyline, or a "coming of age" theme.

YA work can span across all genres - as YA is an age range, not a genre in it's own right - and work tends to be characterized by work appealing to the generally assumed teen audience.

The age range varies, however. Some argue that YA is 13-25, some 16-25 (preceded by a "Teen" age range of 10-15), some 13-19... You see the problem! We get the general idea that it's aimed at teenagers generally - but crudely speaking, what age is "too young" for YA? What's "too old"?

Here's where New Adult appeared to help out a little - but as with everything, each silver lining has a hidden rain cloud.

What's New Adult?

New Adult (or "New adult literature", or "NA") was first marketed by Martin Press in 2009, who decided there was a gap in the market for "fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an 'older YA' or 'new adult", although that's been translated as "basically a Young Adult book with sex and cursing thrown in."
This suggests that NA could encompass all genres, yet Angela James, the editorial director of Carina Press, describes NA as "a genre that fills the gap between YA and contemporary romance." That seems far more limiting and perhaps gives an impression of NA as a shady romance genre too mature for teens/minors, but not mature enough for an adult romance audience. Is that a correct perception? It's hard to say.

Again, the age range of "ideal" readers varies, although it seems to be consistently described as around 18-25/30 years old. It still raises the same questions, however; what age is "too young" for NA? What's "too old"?

Why is NA different to YA?

An NA novel could be defined by a protagonist/characters older than those in YA - of a similar age to the intended audience - but one key difference seems to be the inclusion of more mature themes. The NA fiction range appears heavily focused in the romance genre - whether it's strengthening in other genres such as SF&F (Science Fiction and Fantasy) remains to be seen. 

I recognise that NA aims to further focus marketing by the publishing industry, but on the other hand, it could be quite a constricting measure that disengages readers. Rudimentary age ranges are used in both YA and NA fiction marketing - however, in reality, reading transcends age, so should readers be put into such boxes, labelled and classified by age? Who's to say that an adult couldn't still enjoy the works of Enid Blyton, or a child the works of Tolkien?

This was a particularly heated extract I found. It raises a really valid point about the perceived quality of classifying writing into age groupings;
New Adult is a label that is condescending to readers and authors alike. It implies that the books act as training wheels between Young Adult and Adult. For the New Adult books that are particularly childish, the label implies that they are a step above Young Adult--which is insulting to the Young Adult books that are far superior. For the New Adult books that are particularly sophisticated, the label implies that they are not worthy of being considered "adult." It's a lose-lose situation for everyone.
"The problem with new adult books" by Lauren Sarner, Huffington Post.

So, is NA the new YA?

Ultimately, we have a proposed new reader age range on our hands here, which requires us, as independent authors, to make a conscious choice on how we define our work when it's on the adult side of YA.

Should we market our books as YA, or NA?

I find this especially difficult to decide given the potential grey area on mature content which may crop up in the second Book of Caledan. I personally don't think I could market book 1 as YA, but then book 2 as NA - I'm sure that would split, confuse and frustrate readers.

However, I wouldn't class the series itself as NA overall. Besides, in what appears to currently be a romance dominated category, I get the feeling I'd only be shooting myself in the foot if I marketed my current series as NA, despite the fact that yes, my protagonists are older teens/in their early twenties and yes, there may be more mature themes on the way in book 2.

Furthermore, NA has been around for 5 years so far, yet is not particularly well recognised. When did you last see "New Adult" pop up on the categories list at Amazon? Well, it doesn't. Similarly, few other publishers/retailers recognise it, despite growing interest and a growing number of particularly self published authors classifying their work as NA.

Should we jump on the NA bandwagon and help it diversify into genres other than romance? Or do we stick to good old familiar YA? Is there even a need for NA when we already have YA and Adult categories?

NA certainly doesn't seem to be a replacement of the YA category - and I don't think NA will ever replace YA - just a niche within/crossing into it. For now, I'll be sticking to YA, but I'm interested to see where NA is in a few years time - I think it has potential, but I don't feel it fulfils it yet.

I'd love to hear what you think! Please comment below, or catch up with me on facebook or twitter to have your say.

Ciao for now,


Sunday, 18 May 2014

The benefits and pitfalls of having an author mailing list

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A topic I've repeatedly come across in self-publishing is establishing a mailing list - a list of interested, consenting contact's emails so that you can send them important updates about your book/product/cat's eating habits/whatever they've signed up for. So, writers can contact readers about their books, and readers receive updates directly from the author.

Sounds great, doesn't it? 

Overwhelmingly the status quo seems to be that a mailing list is a necessary aspect to any success as a self/independently published author. 

But, I surprisingly found that there are some pitfalls to having a mailing list.

I thought it would be worth sharing some of the perhaps more obscure pros and cons with you as well as linking to some of the posts that helped inform me (at the bottom of the post)! You can also see my mailing list signup form above as an example too (hint hint! Sign up if you'd like to receive advance updates on Books of Caledan). :-)

Advantages of mailing lists:
  • You have your own reader base at your fingertips to share important updates with.
  • Mailing lists allow authors to be independent of rising (Google+) and falling (Facebook) social networks; your fans travel the internet with you.
  • Authors can send targeted promotions to parts/all of their list/s, which means authors can offer certain/all subscribers incentives - like I offer such as advance knowledge of release dates, special offers, exclusive content, and so on.
  • Authors can integrate signup forms on their platform. I've added a signup to the top right of my blog and at the top of this post just to highlight how easy it is: Mailchimp provided the form coding for me, so no coding knowledge needed. Very handy! You can integrate mailchimp with both facebook and twitter too.
  • Some mailing list services are free (up to a limit). I use MailChimp, which allows up to 2,000 subscribers for no fee. This means that there's no financial burden or obligation for new authors/businesses. Most authors I've encountered seem to use either MailChimp or Aweber above that threshold/for paid accounts.
  • Authors can import/export mailing lists across platforms/hosts, so you're not tied to one service if you find a better provider or change your mind.
  • Authors can schedule mails to be sent out at times to be most convenient to your readers wherever they are in the world! Plus this means you can schedule them in advance and then forget about them - the provider then sends them out as scheduled.
  • You can add incentives to encourage signups - upon signup, a response email automatically sends to each new subscriber linking to the amazing freebie giveaway you've offered. That way, the subscriber get's something (good) for free, you get their email address/permission to contact, and the list provider handles the distribution.

Blogs I'd seen about mailing lists tended to be very heavily weighted in favour of them. There are drawbacks though, which I didn't discover until testing out the idea for myself.

The disadvantages of mailing lists:

  • A paid account with Mailchimp is required to setup response emails to new signups (i.e. sign up and get a free reward emailed automatically i.e. ebook, download etc). I think Aweber is much the same. That's a great aspect of the incentive nature of mailing lists, though it could be overcome on a free account by manually emailing every single new subscriber. That's only effective therefore on smaller operations unless you pay for the feature.
  • Sending too many emails, spam emails, or if too many people don't open your emails/unsubscribe, then your account could be marked as a spammer and shut down. So email content needs to be a balance of quality, useful and relevent content that doesn't bombard people and is always interesting/valuable enough for subscribers to open and read.
  • You must put your business address on each and every email you send out to comply with international anti-spam laws. In order to eliminate this (because you can't use PO Box addresses either), you'd have to put a business address - for example an accountant or solicitors address there (or a publishers/agent)... but that involves having access to such a facility. Personally, it's an understandable but worrying breach of confidential information.
I hope that this has been a useful insight into some less obvious advantages/disadvantages of mailing lists. Some further useful reading on mailing lists can be found on these blogs, which include some "how to" information and are well worth a read:

Friday, 16 May 2014

Hi all - I return!

Just a quick blog to show that I am in fact still alive. I just finished my third and penultimate year of university (hurrah), which means I no longer have to spend my free time slaving over assignments/revision (double hurrah) and can instead get back what I truly enjoy doing; writing (triple hurrah!)!

In the next week I'll be blogging here about:
  •  The benefits and pitfalls of having an author mailing list.
  • The age-range debate: 'Young Adult' vs. 'New Adult' literature.
Plans for this summer include:
  • Finish editing and then publish The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan (and all the things that entails) - sign up to my mailing list to receive advance notification of publication date today!
  • Finish planning and then write the second book of Caledan (title currently unknown). 
  • I'll be more active online too on my facebook account, on my twitter account and on here. I'll also be setting up an author page on Google+ and Goodreads.
  • (+ inevitable boring real life stuff: decorating, chores, bla bla bla.... invest a domestic goddess robot already, scientists!)