While interest in romance titles is showing no signs of slowing down—they continue to find their way into top spots on bestseller lists and command major advances from big-six editors—it’s the newish category new adult that is particularly hot right now. These books—loosely defined as titles aimed at readers between 18 and 23—are taking up quite a bit of the deal-making in the States, with the London Book Fair just a week away. And, as with the romance wave that continues, many of the new adult titles fetching big advances were originally self-published. But the question remains: is there a market outside the U.S. for this category?
Agent Kristin Nelson is betting that one of her new clients, new adult author Jasinda Wilder, could be the next big thing, or, more appropriately, the next Hugh Howey. Nelson, who has an eponymous shingle, also represents Howey, a science-fiction author who built his readership through self-publishing before signing a major print-only deal with Simon & Schuster. Nelson described Wilder’s Falling Into You as a “steamy Nicholas Sparks”; it was published by the author on March 16 and has sold nearly 70,000 e-books at a price point of $3.99. Nelson, who just took Wilder on, said although it is still very early in the deal-making process, she’s excited about the prospects. “Right now we are just starting the conversations [with publishers] to see where they will lead.”
Wilder’s position, as a hotly pursued independent bestselling new adult writer, is not wholly unique at the moment. On the New York Times’ combined print and e-book bestseller list for the week of April 7, J. Lynn’s Wait for You cropped up at #2. That book was recently acquired by William Morrow, for a sum reported to be over $500,000, in a three-book deal. Other recent notable sales in the new adult category include Grand Central editor Beth de Guzman’s purchase of Jodi Ellen Malpas’s This Man trilogy, and Courtney Cole’s sale of her novel, If You Stay, to Amy Pierpont at Grand Central’s Forever Yours imprint. (For more deals, see p. 9.)
Agent Kevan Lyon, who represents Lynn (and brokered her Morrow deal), thinks the Fifty Shades trilogy brought new readers to the romance genre, and that “paved the way for stories emerging in the new adult category.” She also thinks that, because new adult books have, up until this point, not been regularly published by traditional houses, there was a “perfect storm” that drove writers working in this area to self-publish, while, at the same, consumer demand for these books was ramping up.
New adult writers, according to some, may also have a knack for finding success the DIY route. Catherine Drayton, an agent at Inkwell Management who sold Cole’s If You Stay, said she thinks authors of this genre deserve particular credit for their self-made success. Drayton feels new adult authors are particularly comfortable (and successful) self-publishing because they are adept at publicizing their work through social media. “I think authors of this genre are very good at marketing, and understand their readers. They know where they can reach them, and how to find their communities.”
One question though, with the London Book Fair beginning April 15, is whether foreign publishers are craving new adult titles. Taryn Fagerness, who runs an eponymous agency that specializes in foreign rights (and who is also handling foreign sales for Wait for You), said she thinks international publishers are still “reeling a bit” from the new adult trend, which took off so quickly.
“In the past, via traditional publishing, it would take a year or more for an author’s book to be published. Because of this, any given trend could be over by the time the book came out.” Now, Fagerness explained, with authors able to write a book in months and then deliver it to their readers shortly thereafter, reading trends, like the new adult one, are taking off in new ways. And foreign publishers, many of which are in markets where e-book sales are just now beginning to grow, are still a bit befuddled by the shift.
“Other territories seem quite mystified by the [new adult] genre and very unsure of how to publish it,” Fagerness continued. With many countries outside the U.S. having small e-book markets and, often, fixed prices for those e-books, foreign publishers may be more wary of acquiring and publishing quickly released, low-priced titles, like the new adult ones. Fagerness sees foreign publishers regarding the new adult category with “caution” while keeping to the approach they take with all genres: “trying to seek out quality projects they can invest in.”