New Adult Fiction – Marketable Category?

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New Adult FictionAs I have been reading and reviewing for this blog, I have noticed a gap in the book marketplace – college age fiction.  You could either have your book revolve around someone 17 or 18, or you skipped to the 30 year-old adult.  Plus, unless you’re reading fluffy romantic fiction, you’re more likely to find literary works with protagonists that are middle-aged.  Young adult fiction is finally gaining some great critical acclaim in the last few years, and is increasingly marketable to non-teens, but there hasn’t been a lot there for those in the 18-30 market.  Even with the few books released with older protagonists, they often got shoved in YA, perhaps because they were young characters and couldn’t quite be considered adults.

Publishing Crawl contributor Rachel Seigel wrote about this very same gap just the other day, with great news of an up and coming category – New Adult Fiction.  As Seigel puts it, New Adult fiction would encompass those “protagonists [who] are emerging adults who have a broader life experience than younger teens, but not enough experience to be living full adult lives.”  That’s great news for those that are 18-25, and those who read to find common experiences for their age. It could also be a very popular category with juniors and seniors in high school, who might want to find something to look forward to.

Rumor has it that Twilight was originally written with Bella in college, but the publishers had Meyer age it down so they could market it for the lucrative YA crowd.  While the characters’ ages is only a small problem in the popular-but-awful series, if authors are having to make characters younger, the stories can suffer.  The transition out of high school and into college also holds a great deal of possibilities for authors to mine from.  With so many Young Adult books featuring never-there parents (so that the characters can get into as much trouble as possible, thus driving forward plot points), turning the kids loose on college makes the absent parent far more believable.  How many young heroines in recent years have had one dead/out-of-state/absent parent and one parent who doesn’t seem to care that their daughter is in love with a creepy boy/werewolf/fighting to the death?  (Of course, Disney has done the dead-mother thing for over 50 years, and they’re still going.)

What could New Adult fiction mean then, for YA?  Well, for one, there might be some authors “trading up”, as it were.  But frankly, there are already a lot of books in this category, if it were to catch on.  Last summer I reviewed the great Code Name Verity, and wondered at its YA classification when it featured two adult women in their early 20’s.  One of my next reviews will be for The Office of Mercy, a soon-to-be-released YA dystopian that actually features a 24 year-old heroine.  The books are already being written, but there could be a lot of readers missing out on them because of their younger classifications.

I have already talked about on this blog my disdain for those who look down on genre fiction.  What makes little sense to me are those who might not pick up a book because it’s meant for the “teen audience”.  It’s actually something I covered in my review of Code Name Verity, and it still makes me sad that there are excellent books out there that might get overlooked by some readers because they feel they are “too old” for this or that novel.  The great thing about New Adult fiction would be to break down some of those barriers, get some excellent non-YA books out of the binding YA category, and it inspires authors to write those stories and editors to accept them.  Let’s hope that this time next year we will have a ton of new New Adult fiction books.

I’m even going to start tagging appropriate books in my reviews.  Every little bit helps the trend, right?


Are eBooks Killing the Book Industry?

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I said I would talk about this soon.  I’m just going to warn you that I have no real facts to back what I think, but rather personal observations from watching friends and family.

I’m just going to say right now that I don’t think eBooks are bad for the book industry at all.  While I do see more and more indie authors, I think the standard publishing houses will remain so.  There are enough snobs who are weary of indie authors.  Honestly, I’m wary of indie authors.  There are good and bad ways to do an independent novel, but unfortunately many that you’ll find will have been done the bad way – without an editor, littered with common grammatical and spelling mistakes, and without a properly constructed story.  Part of the publishing house process is the service the editors provide.  They help hone a novel to its best self, and a lot of indie authors do not take the time or invest the money to hire a real editor.  If a friend recommends an indie or someone asks me to review one, I’ll give it a shot.  After all, I liked My Memories of a Future Life.  But still I am wary, and many others like me will be wary, too.  This alone will keep the regular publishing houses thriving.

Amazon announced their Kindle Fire last month, and with that presentation showed a very interesting chart.  Sales of physical books are steadily increasing.  In a down economy.

Amazon Book Sales
Amazon's chart shows sales of physical books growing

Amazon is the largest world retailer for books and for eBooks as well, so if they’re still growing, then there’s not much to worry about.  Amazon is online, and the closing of Borders shows that physical book stores are struggling, but physical books themselves are not.  I mean, if Amazon can grow in this economy and with the Kindle to hand on the same website, that’s a pretty good indication of people’s reading practices.

I honestly think that eBooks bring more people to reading.  It’s so easy now to read when you have a few spare minutes.  You don’t even need something like the Kindle.  You just need an app on your iPhone or Android phone, and can read when you’re doing all of the waiting our society dictates (doctor’s appointments, public transportation commutes, and everything in between our busy lives).  Personally, I will always have books that I will want to own a physical copy of.  There is something about owning books that is important to me.  I also like the turning of the page, the smell, the feel of the heft of words in my hand.  But eBooks are great for those books you wouldn’t have purchased because of the space they would occupy.  And, like I said before, for those books you are slightly ashamed you own and read.

So many different ways to read mean more and more people are going to be reading.  I’m not worried, because honestly, readers are still interested in quality.  That’s why there are so many readers for blogs like mine.  People want to find that great read, that book that makes them think and feel and experience another life.  We’ll continue to look for it, and publishing houses will continue to provide it.  I’m not saying that every book that’s gone through a traditional publishing house is guaranteed to be good (*cough*Twilight*cough*), but your chances are higher.  People have faith in the system and we will continue to put our faith in it as long as it churns out good books.  Until that stops happening, the book industry will be just fine.

A Few Musings . . . .

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  • Did you know that with a full-time, regular hours job that it is hard to read a whole lot of books?  Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like my job, I like being challenged and I like stretching my talents.  But if someone were to come up to me and offer me enough to live on to read and critique books all day, I would be a very happy camper.
  • A lot of people are talking about eBooks and whether or not they are “killing” the publishing industry.  I feel my Twitter feed is usually crammed with this debate, blog post after blog post.  I have to say, I’m not really sure what I think.  I’m a traditionalist, I will always want to own hard copies of books, but I love the portability of eBooks.  It is also easier to hide those “guilty pleasure” books you’re ashamed you’ve read but still enjoy if you can hide them on your Kindle, instead of a book shelf for all to see.  (That was a clumsy sentence, but I am too tired to figure out how to fix it.  Fake gold star if you can do better in the comments!)  I will ruminate on the eBook vs. hard copy and probably post about it here soon.  The post will contain no statistical analysis, as I am allergic to numbers.
  • I like “Castle” and it always improves my Monday nights.  I would also like to follow cops around, but feel no desire to examine the dead bodies.
  • I would also like to get back into academic writing.  As I type this, I realize that I have weird hobbies.
  • The National Book Award nominees were announced last week.  If you are a book nerd, you’ve heard about the Shine debacle.  I have not read Shine, or any books by its author Lauren Myracle.  The short version is the judges and NBA press officials had a phone miscommunication.  The judges said Chime (by Franny Billingsley) but the press officials heard Shine.  Why there wasn’t an emailed, faxed, and typed version of the list sent to the press officials is completely unknown and was a stupid mistake to make.  Shine was announced as a nominee, then Chime was added as a sixth nominee (in the Young Person’s Literature category), and then Myracle was asked to withdraw Shine from the competition.  How completely rude, misguided, hurtful, insulting, and childish on the part of the judges.  Author Libba Bray sounds off(warning: contains strong language)
  • NaNoWriMo is approaching.  I am undecided whether or not I will be trying to read and write 50,000 words during November and spending Thanksgiving with the Scottish fiance.  Obviously, Scottish fiance comes first (though both Crossed and The Impossible Dead come out during November . . . .).
  • Speaking of The Impossible Dead, I am highly annoyed that I have to wait a month to read it when the UK can already get their hands on a copy.  I am unsure whether or not if I purchased a Kindle edition via if they would deliver said book to my Kindle in the US.  I am tempted to try, but it would be a waste of pounds if it did not go through.  The other possibility is have the Scottish fiance bring a copy with him when he visits next month, at which point I would get the book a few days early at least.  I also prefer UK editions of UK books, simply because the Britishisms and Scottishisms are not edited out.  This American at least can understand them.

    Slains Castle
    A side view of Slains Castle
  • Halloween is coming, so I am planning on reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time.  This is also inspired by my visiting Slains Castle in Aberdeen last year.  This was supposedly the location that inspired the work.

Creating Hype out of Thin Air

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While this blog will review fiction, it will also serve as a place to talk about the world of fiction.  I have already done some of that, but I am about to jump off the diving board and into the pool of the publishing world. Make sure to strap on your floaties.

We all know that hard-copy books are in trouble.  Borders is closing (while simultaneously expanding my personal library), Barnes and Noble is not doing so peachy, and there are countless people turning to Ebooks instead.  So when the following Wall Street Journal article came through on my Twitter feed, I was wondering just how many people are going to lose money on this gamble.  Of course, it may take off, too.

Since Harry Potter broke just about every record in the book (movies as well as books), publishers have been looking for the next phenomenon.  Some people thought they had found it in the Twilight “saga”.  (It truly pains me to call it that, because a saga is a Norse myth of some substance, not at all like these novels.  But they can’t call it a quadrilogy.)  While Twilight has made a bunch of money, it has not found the same universal acceptance.  Most people reject it and its power lies in the hands of fourteen year-old girls and their crazy Twihard moms.  But I will not spend an entire post bashing Twilight, if only because my own mother will bug me about it later.  So publishers continue to look for the next success, and Doubleday think they have found it with a debut author.

Erin Morgenstern’s novel is called Night Circus and focuses on two young magicians who must compete against each other in a night-time circus.  And of course they fall in love.  Because that is what sells novels.  And it’s the forbidden love that Summit Entertainment has been touting to Twihards, since they have purchased the rights to the film already.  The book hasn’t even come out yet, and the film rights are already purchased.

I understand that this book could potentially be huge.  But the WSJ article divulges that some bookstores are planning for the release of this book.  Some are doing huge (surely expensive) release parties with circus themes.  Others have purchased huge volumes of the book, causing the publisher to print 50,000 more on their first run than originally planned.  Morgenstern even went to ComicCon to promote it.

While she is living every author’s dream, I think she’s living the nightmare, too.  With so much expected out of her first book, it not only puts pressure on her to write more explosive novels, but it puts pressure on her first novel.  How can she be assured that the novel will actually sell?  If it were me, I would worry about being the biggest flop in history – you’ve built up all this hype and the only way to go is down.

While I would understand this sort of reaction if it were Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) writing a new book, or especially if it were J.K. Rowling’s new novel, I have a hard time fathoming it for someone whose work has not yet been tested.  Some books may have all the winning formulas, but never take off.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think Rowling got a huge advance.  She had struggled to publish for years and was immensely grateful for the chance she got.  Harry Potter grew organically, and it was never something that felt shoved down your throat.  Of course, you might disagree if you were a little late to the game on the series, but there was not this kind of pressure or flustering over The Sorcerer’s Stone.

While the book has gotten some good pre-release reviews on Amazon, who’s to say just how magical it will be?  The release date is set for September 13, so it will not be long before we shall see if all this advanced hype will pay off or not.  Of course I will read it simply because I am curious, and maybe Doubleday is smart in that regard.  They have created curiosity, someone like me writes a little blog about it, word spreads, and the curiosity continues to grow.  Maybe the publishers know what they are doing after all.

But what do you think, dear reader?  Is this overkill, or might we all be sitting around in a year or so waiting to see the midnight premiere of Night Circus in cinemas?