The millennial generation seems to be doing things a bit different from their predecessors. Between a combination of soaring student debt and the lackluster economy and jobs market, many who graduate college then return home and work jobs below their education level simply to make ends meet, or to provide some stability while they pursue further educational studies. While this is hardly a new phenomenon — the term “emerging adulthood” was first coined in a 2000 article in the American Psychologist by Jeffrey Arnett — now the literary world has begun to take notice.
The term "New Adult fiction" was coined by St. Martin’s Press in 2009, when they made a call for fiction that was similar to Young Adult, but could be marketed for a slightly older audience. The target demographic is the 18-30 age group, and it’s not hard to see why. Millennials in their twenties are going through numerous experiences as emerging adulthood appears to be more and more of a trend than fluke.
These experiences, naturally, have created a new audience. And while many in their twenties (and older) have no problem reading Young Adult novels or fiction typically aimed at adults, there aren’t many works in these genres that explore this period of life, or if there are, it’s not done in such a way that really speaks to current experiences.
The twenties are indeed a turbulent and exciting period of massive change in one’s life. They typically involve a whole host of experiences. For those who have had to return home after living at school, the sense of empowerment and freedom college granted could feel as if it’s been taken away, or there is the terror of moving to a completely new location for work where you know no one. Relationships, both old and new, become profoundly redefined during this time. The friends from high school and college you thought would be close to you for life can quickly become just names and pictures on a Facebook newsfeed. Your tastes in a partner may have shifted completely, regardless of whether or not you currently have one, and what you want in a relationship has the potential to become much different from what you wanted just a few years or even months earlier. The struggle to define oneself becomes of profound importance in one’s twenties.
Is it any wonder then, that so many readers in this age group would seek out fiction that speaks more to the themes and issues they concern themselves with?
Typically, the publishing industry is slow to change, and this is no exception. Many agents and publishers claim New Adult to be little more than a marketing gimmick by self-published authors and small press publishers, while others say there is not enough of an audience. Fortunately, authors have not simply heeded these words and pushed ahead anyway, and in the age of digital print have managed to self-publish these works.
The result is some of these authors have been successful, and now the publishing industry is starting to take note. Publishers are now looking to some of these self-published works and acquiring them for mass distribution. New Adult fiction looks as if it has made quite a splash in the publishing industry, and for the time being, is here to stay.