The New Adult Speculative Fiction Landscape

I've got a super special post for you guys, today! My CP and New Adult author of awesome, Caitlin Sinead, has agreed not only to share the super awesome cover reveal of her debut NA novel HEARTSICK, but she's sharing some super interesting thoughts on NA Spec Fic as well!

Take it away, Caitlin! 

When I began writing HEARTSICK in the late spring of 2013, the New Adult landscape was still shifting (as it is now!) and it wasn’t clear if speculative stories would work well in the category. But I was optimistic. I loved the idea of writing YA-style speculative stories with older characters and more mature themes.  So I was going to write it, gosh darn it!

When I began querying HEARTSICK in the fall, I got much more pushback on Quinn’s age (from agents who didn’t feel comfortable pitching New Adult but didn’t think the book fit well within the adult category either) than I did on the speculative elements. And when I did get an agent and we went out on submission, only one editor flatly turned it down because it wasn’t a pure (i.e., non speculative) contemporary romance.

Meanwhile, more and more speculative NA has been surfacing and doing well. To the point that NA Alley recently wrote a blog post entitled “New Adult Speculative Fiction is here to Stay.”  However, I find it interesting that they don’t necessarily see the current NA audience as being receptive to speculative NA. Instead, they mention that, “readers of speculative fiction are already out there, and most of them don't realize that New Adult can satisfy their fantastical cravings as well.” The blog goes on to add, “it’s not about pushing spec fic on readers who love contemporary, it’s about targeting our own readers.”

I agree with the idea that there may be a large audience out there just ready for NA speculative. But have we, as a writing/publishing community, actually reached them? Is the common perception that much of NA is contemporary romance inaccurate?

I dug into the stats on Amazon to see if I could find some answers and had way too much fun playing in excel with graphs. I won’t bore you with all of my graphical creations, but I thought the comparison between YA and NA and general fiction might be interesting.

Now, before I get into my analysis *cleans glasses while pausing to look intelligent,* it’s important to note multiple caveats:

  • Before you say, “Caitlin, those percentages don’t add up,” let me explain. I searched for ALL the “Young Adult” books on amazon. ALL of them! Then, I searched for ALL the “Young Adult Paranormal.” I then used that to get the percentage of YA books that are tagged as YA paranormal. 
  • “Contemporary romance” doesn’t preclude speculative elements. HEARTSICK has the “contemporary romance” label. And that’s great! 
  • I’m a little dubious that only 12% of NAs are contemporary romance, so this likely gets into issues of how things are tagged.
  • To get the general numbers, I based them against a search for “fiction.” (When I tried searching for “adult” books a lot of NSFW stuff came up…heh). So, I think this worked! But, I suppose it’s possible a lot of fiction isn’t ever tagged with the generic “fiction.” 

Still, even with all those caveats I think this data gives us an idea of what currently makes up NA, and it’s still very heavily leaning to contemporary romance with paranormal books being the only speculative books in the category with more representation than YA and general fiction.

The scenario gets even less optimistic for popular New Adult books. When I checked last week, in the top 100 Romance > New Adult and College there were only eight speculative books. In the top 100 Women’s Fiction > New Adult and College there were only two. Two! None of these were in the top 20. (It’s important to note that Amazon also has a Fantasy > New Adult and College category as well, where, obviously, 100 percent at speculative. They do not have an NA category under Science Fiction).

So, has that NA speculative audience really been found? As an optimist, I believe they’re out there, but we’ve only really pierced the surface. Perhaps, right now, we’re seeing the dark blue part of the venn diagram (I told you I had fun with charts!) below. Those readers who love NA contemporary romances AND also speculative fiction. And that dark blue area has been encouraging and fueling the NA speculative stories. Now we just need to figure out how to get to the rest of the “speculative readers” circle. Hopefully, with each NA speculative release, we reach even more readers.

Completely Made-Up Venn Diagram

Wasn't that great? I love the venn diagrams and I think Caitlin's perspective on New Adult SpecFic is totally fascinating. But the fun isn't over yet because as I said before, Caitlin has been gracious enough not only to share the blurb and an excerpt from HEARTSICK, but we're revealing the cover, too! Woot! 

Here we go: 

Quinn is looking forward to her senior year. She has big plans to hang out with her best friend Mandy, flirt with cute boy-genius Rashid, party at her favorite dive bar, and figure out what she’s going to do after graduation with her not-so-useful art major degree.  But that is before she meets Luke, a hot townie who moves back home to help take care of his dying sister. And it is before the weird epidemic that starts sweeping campus in which people’s eyes mysteriously turn purple.  Is it an odd side effect from a new party drug? Is it a rogue bacteria that was developed in a campus lab? Whatever it is, tensions are heating up as the town starts blaming the university, and the student religious group is convinced that it’s the mark of the devil. Quinn and Luke are caught in the middle, especially when Quinn learns that Luke isn’t just a happy-go-lucky, redneck boy-next-door—he is a detective—a fact that triggers Quinn’s phobia of guns and memories of her deceased uncle.  In spite of herself and her desire to remain unattached and independent, Quinn finds herself falling for him.  But when town and gown relations heat up even further, and Quinn’s friend Danny mysteriously falls to his death, Quinn vows to discover the truth behind the epidemic.  As she searches for the people responsible, she realizes that sometimes to gain your independence, you have to be willing to give a little bit of it up.

“Did you go to college?”  
His jaw is tight. “Yes.” 
“Do you think I could guess your major?” I ask.  
“Probably not,” he says. 
I don’t like that I don’t even get a hint at what he did before or what he studied. I shrug, start on my second hotdog and then lean back, really aiming for a glint in my eye, if that’s possible to control. I’ll make this a game. “Well, do you think you can guess mine?” 
He smiles. “Do I get something if I guess right?” 
I hop up onto a stool and let the tip of my toe brush against his knee. When I make contact, he starts, before leaning in. “What do you want?” 
“I want a lot of things…” He stares at me. “But for now, I’d settle for a second date.” 
“Okay, if you can guess my major, on the first try—” I emphasize that bit with a pointed finger, “—then I’ll reluctantly agree to go out with you again.” 
“I don’t like the reluctant part, but I’ll take what I can get. Now, let’s see…” He rubs his chin as though he’s an old-timey detective. He’s ready to pace back and forth across the room with a pipe and a deerstalker hat. “You like photography.” 
Shit, he does know that. I start to hum the Jeopardy! theme song. Maybe if time is running out he’ll be more likely to guess quickly and get it wrong? Do I want him to get it wrong? 
“Okay, I got it.” He rubs his hands together. “You’re an art major.” His cheeks swell with the weight of his smile.  
“You got that just because I take pictures?” I rub my forehead.  
“I know more than that.” 
“Someone told you,” I say. “If this bet was rigged, it doesn’t count.” 
He jerks back and shakes his head, frowning. “No, I wouldn’t do that,” he says. “I noticed you had some pottery on your coffee table, with initials on it, a Q. B.?” 
I nod. He’s talking about the bowl I made last year. Initials usually go on the bottom, but I painted them big and proud in the middle. And the bowl is empty. Mandy and I haven’t decided what to put in it. We narrowed it down to fake fruit (lame), M&M’S (which we would devour) or Micro Machines. Clearly, we’re leaning toward Micro Machines. 
Luke takes my hand. I think he’s trying to convey his earnestness, his respectability and seriousness of not tricking me into a bet. The pads of my fingers brush against his rough palms and I suppress a sigh. His thumb runs along my pointer finger, sliding to the fingernail. “You also have paint under your nails.” His victorious, smug smile is in full bloom.  
I pull my hand away, embarrassed. “Yeah, it’s hard to get all the paint off.” 
“I’m sure,” he says.

And here's the gorgeous cover!

I love this cover and as someone who has read the book, I can tell you the book is just as excellent (and also the cover fits so well aggghhh). 

You can add HEARTSICK to your Goodreads TBR shelves right here!

And here are the other links: 
Caitlin Sinead is represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc. and her debut novel, Heartsick, will be published by Carina Press in 2015. Her writing has earned accolades from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery MagazineGlimmer Train, and Writers & Artists, and her stories have appeared in multiple publications, including The AlarmistThe Binnacle, CrunchableJersey Devil Pressand Northern Virginia Magazine. She earned a master's degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University.

Twitter-sized bites: 
Check out the cover reveal for @CaitlinSineadJ's debut HEARTSICK + her thoughts on NA SpecFic on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)  
Have we found the NA SpecFic audience? @CaitlinSineadJ shares her thoughts + her debut's cover reveal! (Click to tweet


jezzell19 said...

Fantastic research and post, Caitlin!

Ava Jae said...

I agree! :)

Caitlin Sinead Jennings said...

Thanks!! :)

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...