“Post-New Adult”: Great Marketing Tool, Classist, or Other?

If Young Adult (YA) features characters up to 18 years of age, and New Adult (NA) covers 19-25, one would figure that the logical next step is “adult” (or “Contemporary”, when it comes to romance) in categorisation. But agent Marisa Corvisiero thinks differently.

Though not really a fan of NA as a genre/subgenre (it’s fine as a metadata category), I understand its place to mark the transition from teenager to adult. But when does that stage end? It varies from person to person, and I suppose you could assign a general age bracket to it, so that explains NA. But what is “Post-New Adult” (PNA)?

“Calling Card by @itsAshleyYo Ashley Susanne may B 1st book to be labeled Post New Adult (between 25 and 30)” –Marisa Corvisiero

“#PostNewAdult … Too old for NA and too young for Contemporary… Thanks M for coining the newest romance genre” –Ashley Suzanne

Ms. Corvisiero’s client, author Ashley Suzanne, describes PNA as “Too old for NA and too young for Contemporary”. So when is the process of adulting complete? Laws differ from country to country, and even other states. For some, it’s 18. Others, it’s 21. But even though you’re legally adult, full maturation may not yet have occurred.

Ms. Corvisiero’s blog explains that PNA is about characters aged 26-30, “maybe even 35”. As a 28-year-old I’m right in the middle, so these books should be relatable. But are they? Out of my former classmates, some are married, some have children, some have full-time jobs, and some continue to further their education. I don’t relate to their exact situations, but I definitely see them all as adults. Not Post-New Adults, but adults. Are they still “finding themselves?” That’s not my business, but they seem to have established their adult starting base. Their paths might change, but they have a place for now.

“I think that many of us don’t really come of age in a sense, or really truly find our calling, until we finish college and ‘start our lives in the real world’, meeting responsibilities, starting jobs, and really finally settling down.” –Marisa Corvisiero

This is rather assuming. Due to finances, ability, and various other circumstances, the percentage of people who’ve graduated secondary school and then move on to tertiary education is lower than it has been in the past. So those who don’t attend college are “start[ing] our lives in the real world” straight after twelfth grade. Maybe there’s a “gap year,” but there are also apprenticeships and full-time jobs, and children or marriage. By Ms. Corvisiero’s description, these are considered Post-New Adult events. But the age bracket of these people may actually be New Adult. Even people over 35 experience these things for the first time.

So while I accept that NA is for “college-aged” characters, even if they don’t necessarily attend college, the proposal of PNA is kind of offensive. According to Ms. Corvisiero’s proposal, attending college in the NA bracket (19-25) is the default norm for those in the PNA bracket (26-30). But for those who follow a different timeline; where does that leave us? My problem with Post-New Adult is the perhaps-unintentional classism. New Adult at least acknowledges that not everyone goes to college after high school. PNA’s premise is, “So you’re university-educated – now what?”

“I think that just in the same way we classify children’s books into age groups, and for the same reasons that we have distinguished Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult from other age groups, we now also should separate Post New Adult and perhaps even the next age groups (Mature Adult) to enable readers to better find what they are looking for, to avoid pigeon holding authors to the New Adult category, or get their work lost in the proverbial haystack when labeling them all Adult.” –Marisa Corvisiero

Ms. Corvisiero proposes that PNA targets a specific demographic who are having trouble finding exactly what they want to read. So PNA is unashamedly a marketing tool: all about characters who didn’t face “the real world” at an earlier age. That may not have been Ms. Corvisiero’s intention. I’m struggling to understand, but the more I think about PNA it bothers me.

The obvious argument for PNA-supporters is that these are CHARACTERS. Just because THEY are doing something at a certain age, it doesn’t mean that READERS’ experiences should follow that same timeline. But how we view characters says a lot about how we view people. Reading is not only for escapism – it’s also about meeting a variety of individuals and groups, some of which we may not encounter in person, and learning about all their different life experiences.

Whereas the theory of PNA is much smaller: only about characters who did a specific event (attending college) in a specific age bracket (19-25).

But perhaps marketing forgets what’s REALLY important about fiction: the STORIES. Not just the characters’ ages. The more you set the standard of certain events at certain times, the more you risk alienating readers who don’t follow that timeline – and the more you make it clear that those who differ are not “normal.”

Mind you, Post-New Adult is ONE agent’s opinion. It’s only a marketing tool. If only it was more class-diverse…

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9 responses to ““Post-New Adult”: Great Marketing Tool, Classist, or Other?

  1. This person is supposedly a literary agent, and used the phrase “pigeon holding?” It’s pigeonholing. Also, it would be pigeonholing *in* not to.

    Now that I’ve gotten that peeve out of the way: New Adult is stupid. Post-New Adult is even stupider. And, sadly, the books that are shelved New Adult tend to be stupidest of all. All NA is, at this point, is books about characters who are just above the age of consent having lots of sexytimes.

    The authors and publishers can yammer on and on about how it is about “the transitional years between high school and adulthood” all they want, but the reality is that most of NA is about nothing more than sex. I had plenty of sex in college, but college wasn’t all about sex. It wasn’t all about romance. It was about figuring out who I was, who my friends were, what kind of adult I wanted to be. We don’t need a specific age categorization of books to give us those stories – some people might even call them “coming of age” tales, and they have existed for centuries (David Copperfield, anyone? Jane Eyre?)

    But if we’re going to have stories about that age group, for the love of all that is holy, could they include some substance, and not just sex with hot guys?

  2. Thank you so much for posting this and for sharing your opinion. You sere so clever in pointing out some things that may not have been properly expressed in my post or posts shared by others. I’m so glad to have the opportunity I’d like to clarify that PNA category has nothing to do with contemporary (time period) or genre (subject matter). It is just an age classification to carve it out of the all-inclusive Adult group, to make books easier to find and distinguish them from perhaps more ‘mature’ works.

    The reason why I’m suggesting this category, which would very much serve the same function as MG, YA and NA classifications, is to give authors and readers a quick heads up as to the age of the characters or the target reader. Which will never preclude any other age groups from reading it since most of readers actually enjoy reading in different age groups. It’s just meant to be a classification for purposes of targeting, search ability, metadata, announcements, shelving, etc.

    Think of the TV show Thirtysomething… even though it isn’t a book…. It had a clear target market, but it never implied that everyone has the same life or pre-requisites, nor did it restrict the 40 and 50 somethings from watching or loving the show. (just an example)

    My suggestion never implicated that attending college is a pre-requisite, nor that the books necessarily have to be about finding oneself, etc. They were examples of possible situations. Clearly not everyone experiences the same things at the same age, and these differences are what will make the good stories stand out. 🙂

    Also, you keep calling this a marketing ploy… you’re quite a bit off on that, as I’m not trying to get anything out of sharing my opinion. You are correct however, that this can be a marketing tool that will help publishers and authors target the market if they think that the work is best suited for that age group, and to help readers find books within this limited age group if they wish to find it. This will help sell these books better. I can’t imagine why any author or publisher be opposed to it.

    Of course this is all just my opinion. And I also value yours. That’s what make the world go round. 🙂

    Great post!

    ~ Marisa

    • Let’s agree to disagree 🙂

      I do appreciate you explaining in more detail, so thanks for clarifying. Also on the bright side, the more people discuss the term “Post-New Adult” and how it came about, the more publicity your client’s book will get, so that’s a win 🙂

  3. *Were so clever… I need to slow down my fingers and proofread.

    • Agreed to disagree. You make some great arguments. And bring up some points that could be drawbacks. I’ll give you that. This is just something I’ve been thinking about a lot after conversations with clients and authors contacts on social media. So I decided to put my thoughts down and share them. 🙂 I still think that it can be a helpful category if properly carved out. Clearly I don’t have all the answers yet. But some of your comments were helpful for me to think things through. That’s why we surround our selves with smart people. 🙂
      Oh and in way of disclosure, Ashley Suzanne is not a client of my agency and I get no benefit from her sales. We have however discussed PNA and we both agree that her book would be a great fit for the Category and she said that she may use it. She isn’t the only author who’s on board. So we’ll see if people like and if it works. If not, it was an interesting discussion none the less. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Think of the TV show Thirtysomething… even though it isn’t a book…. It had a clear target market, but it never implied that everyone has the same life or pre-requisites, nor did it restrict the 40 and 50 somethings from watching or loving the show. (just an example)

    This analogy doesn’t jive with me. The show did what you’re talking about based on it’s title. So did Golden Girls, Empty Nest, and I’m sure there’s more out there that I’m not thinking of off the top of my head. But those shows didn’t create a sub-genre that’s marketed to the public as such. What’s public is the fact that Hollywood DOES appeal to a specific age demographic for its advertisers, and there’s always talk of, “If you liked THIS, then you’ll love THIS,” but that’s not creating a new sub-genre of show. In television-speak, you hear, “I want another LOST.” or “I want a Mad Men.” And then writers and networks scramble to figure out how to re-create the magic. Is age a factor? Only so much that they’re trying to appeal to the demographics that bring in the most dollars, but I guarantee you if shows started marketing themselves that way? Yawn.

    Also, going back to children’s books: many of those categorizations are based on reading-level, which is based on cognitive development. Subject matter may play a role, but I’ve seen some pretty dark, adult material in middle grade books, but the difference is about how it’s written.

    So now we’ve got Young Adult. New Adult. And Post-New-Adult. Is our cognitive development so different across this spectrum that our fiction needs to be written a certain way? I’ve no problem with YA as a market, because teens do think differently and view the world differently. Beyond that though, it’s more and more arbitrary. What’s next: a Mid-Life Crisis Genre? Menopausal Genre? POST-Menopausal Genre? Empty Nester genre? I mean, there is a point where readers hit an age where cognitively speaking, their brain IS working differently, so maybe books targeted for that age group should be written appropriately?

    The point is this, and it’s simple: anytime you create a genre, ESPECIALLY based on age alone, you will inevitably have a group of people pop up and say, “I don’t want to read it.” As a former book blogger, I’ve had NUMEROUS conversations with adults who wouldn’t read YA because they’re too old for it. Maybe this attitude is changing, but creating genres based on age is increasing the chances of people saying, “I’m too old for this crap,” and moving on and missing what may be a great story. Of course, THIRTYSOMETHING probably had that issue too on some level, but at least it was a single show being discriminated against, rather than a group of books written by authors who are desperately trying to find their audience.

    I get that there’s gonna be give-and-take, however. Where you lose some readers, you may gain others. But one only needs to look at the history of genre-labeling to know one needs to tread carefully. Just think about “Chick-Lit.” Speaking of which…. isn’t this PNA essentially a new way of talking about the same genre?

  5. Love this post. Agree with what you say about why we read and why it’s important not to over categorise.

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