Publishers Call Out For The Next Bestsellers
By NICHOLAS MILANES
Originally Published in the Fordham Observer
Published: May 1, 2013
As final exams draw near, easily distracted as the collegiate mind with summer approaching, we have all asked ourselves what to do this summer. Here’s an idea: why not write a book?
Besides being a great way to fill the gap of time between Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, it’s a great opportunity, since publishers like HarperCollins are actively seeking young college-age authors. New Adult Fiction is making waves; HarperCollins wants to help young authors make a splash.
New Adult Fiction is an emerging genre centered on college-age protagonists and characters. While plenty of us enjoy Young Adult (YA) novels like “The Hunger Games,” there’s no denying that as high school shrinks smaller and smaller in our horizon, we all crave something that hits a little closer to home.
“YA has always been really popular, and New Adult is actually a much wider world than YA,” said Tessa Woodward, editor at Avon Books, a HarperCollins imprint. “High school is a very enclosed space—you know, it’s just high school. But once you have these kids get out into the world, there’s such a broader range of things that they can experience. The younger writers aren’t afraid of having crazy emotional backstories for their characters.”
The New Adult Genre is free from the constraints of many long-established genres, but has roots in the “Twilight” franchise, which pushed the boundaries of sexual subject matter within YA novels and led to “Fifty Shades of Grey”—a trilogy whose success lies in its sexual frankness.
“YA is what we call a ‘closed door,’” Pamela Spengler-Jaffee said, director of publicity at Avon. “There might be something happening, but you don’t know, because of the readership of YA, and the rules of YA. For the most part, if they’re having any sort of relations, writers don’t write about it.”
Even if the story you want to write doesn’t involve whips and/or chains, a college-age story is likely to be a little less “Degrassi” and a little more “Girls”. New Adult presents an opportunity for writers to tell stories that are raw and real.
This is not to say a New Adult writer is constrained to college matters. “They’re not all set in colleges; it’s just that age group,” Lucia Macro said, vice president and executive editor at Avon. “Some of them have those situations that deal with college or university, but some of them do not; a lot of protagonists are forced into certain circumstances.” Many New Adult protagonists must skip college and live in the real world. New Adult authors are no strangers to confrontational subjects such as rape and unwanted pregnancy.
New Adult is not only a new genre, but a new form of community. Digital publishing is the lifeblood of the pioneering New Adult author, and blogs are the heart. “There are super readers on Goodreads,” Spengler-Jaffee said. “One is this woman named Maryse. She has a well-followed blog—when she recommends a new adult book, all of a sudden, 500 people put it on their shelves to be read. She’s like the Oprah of New Adult. She’s hosting a New Adult reader festival next month—the Orlando Book Bash. There’s a whole slew of authors confirmed to attend.”
The potential audience is growing alongside the genre. New Adult authors have been self-publishing online, on blogs and dedicated websites where fans can easily access them. Publishing houses are now beginning to distribute New Adult novels in the e-book format, making it quicker, cheaper and easier to get an author’s work in the hands of readers everywhere. A growing number of readers find themselves more willing to pay five dollars to download a book to their phone or e-reader than they are to shell out twenty-some dollars for a hardback.
The possibilities are endless for innovative stories and for publishing opportunities. You no longer need prior publishing experience in order to be published. “People are writing who aren’t necessarily taking creative writing classes. They’re not necessarily learning all of the rules of, ‘well, this is what a story should be,’” and there’s a lot more freedom in that. They say, ‘this is what I want to read, so I’m gonna write it down.’” There’s no better time than now to jot down those ideas that have bounced around in your head for so long. “It’s frontier era here. It’s exciting.”