Pub Rants

New Line At SMP

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STATUS: It was 5 degrees walking to the office this morning. Can somebody remind me why I live in Denver and not San Diego?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS IN HOLLIS by Run DMC

When I was in Arizona over the Thanksgiving break, I gave a talk to a group of writers. One of the participants asked me about the new line over at St. Martin’s Press and did I know how much sex was going to be allowed in the romance for that line targeting older teens and twenty-somethings.

I didn’t have an answer as I had only just seen the press release and didn’t know much else about it.

But now I do. When I was in New York, I had a chance to meet up with Dan Weiss (who is heading up this new line) and his assistant S. Jae-Jones (known as JJ). I can now answer this question.

First off, you need to know who Dan is. I know he’s not going to take offense at my highlighting that he has been around the publishing block a time or two. You either love Dan for bringing you the Sweet Valley High books back in the early 1980s or your loath him for being responsible for that series. Grin.

Dan was the owner of 17 Street Productions book packaging—a company he sold to Alloy Entertainment several years ago. (Note: Alloy Entertainment is the packager responsible for bringing you the Gossip Girls and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants among other things.)

So what I’m saying is that Dan has been in the biz for a good long time and he particularly knows publishing for young people. So when he decides to start a new line to deliberately target older teens and twenty-somethings, he knows a thing or two about it. JJ is his assistant. Being a smart, twenty-something who knows her way around the internet and how this target audience uses this medium, she and Dan make a good team.

But back to the original Arizona question that started this entry. How much sex is going to be allowed in the romance?

Well, this new line at SMP is not a romance imprint per se—which is what I think that participant thought it might be. They are more a line for publishing smart, upmarket fiction for this target audience where sex and relationships are simply part of the question. In other words, it’s not so much about the happily-ever-after, which is the focus for a romance, nor is it about the sex—explicit or otherwise. It’s more about the story that will speak to older teens and twenty-somethings. Think Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED, Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP, Nick Hornby’s SLAM, and even GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING in some respects.

Now the biggest issue for this new line, and we discussed this, is where the books will be shelved. Considering that there are numerous books that cross-over, it would be an issue easily solved if Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Independent Bookstores could shelve a copy of the book in two different places. Alas, they don’t do that. Right now, the system is set up so a publisher is forced to choose where to shelve it.

If this line is targeting older teens and twenty-somethings, you can see the potential problem—where to put these books so they can be found by the target audience. Does it go in the teen section or in the general fiction?

For the above examples, all of them were shelved in general fiction. Did older teens find the above books? The goal of this new SMP line is to make sure they do for the books they decide to take on. They also want to do creative things with the electronic book.

All in all, an interesting proposition for them to specifically go after this niche.


34 Responses

  1. Heather said:

    I stopped looking at “Young Adult” books by the time I was 15. If I were the publisher, I’d want it shelved under General Fiction. Twenty-somethings will almost never go to YA unless some blockbuster of a book came out (like Twilight *twitch*) or if they started to read a series when they were younger and just want to keep up with the new books.

  2. Blogging Mama Andrea said:

    I loved Sweet Valley High and the younger Twins version (and still have most of them in a box somewhere).

    I am curious about the older teen target and the sex take and where they place the books. I hope after the popularity of the Twilight series more authors will be placing their characters in the ‘abstinence’ camp.

  3. K. E. Carson said:

    Awesome! I’m glad to see this slowly coming out of the woodwork. I’ve been hearing whispers about this “New Adult” and I’m excited to see how it’ll turn out. Glad the project’s in capible hands.

  4. Natasha Fondren said:

    Oh! Thank you, Kristin! 🙂

    I just read Shiver (because you suggested it), and there was a sex scene, which was actually pretty instructive on how to do it in a very sweet way.

  5. Najela said:

    I personally think it should go to the YA section. The people they are targeting are the people that read YA already. Or maybe just a little table until they get more publishing houses (or whoever decides) to target the audience. I think it’s a smart move in my opinion. I’m a 20 something and I like reading YA, but some times they don’t deal with issues like college and maintaining relationships with friends in college and all that good stuff.

    Do you think it’s a good market to target?

  6. Christine said:

    My 15 year old is already digging into general fiction books (still an avid YA fan). But she might be the exception to the norm–super precocious reader.

    This new line interests me–sounds like Women’s Fiction for teens/young adults. Teen Chick Lit? Perfect for that age as that’s the great time of inner exploration.

  7. Lisa Dez said:

    I found that press release really interesting as every agent I’ve ever heard address the issue says college age girls aren’t buying books, so there’s no market. I hope they’re wrong and the new imprint at SM does well. I’ve got a book on my hard drive right up their alley. I’ll send it off to my agent.

  8. Sarah Skilton said:

    I’ve often wondered if there was a market specifically for stories that take place in college/graduate school/immediately post-college. I wonder if this new line might fill that potential niche, or if it has little to do with the age of the protaganists?

  9. JJ said:

    For better or for worse, I’ve blogged about this topic and answered a few interview questions that may help clarify some questions:

    1) Postadolescent or New Adult Fiction
    2) An interview I gave to Georgia McBride, who runs YAlitchat on Twitter
    3) Jodi Meadows, Jenny Bent’s assistant, weighs in on the category
    4) The interview I gave Jodi
    5) Diana Peterfreund and her thoughts on the category
    6) Some more thoughts from Diana Peterfreund
    7) My own thoughts on shelving this category
    8) My thoughts on marketing this category

    Hope that helps!

  10. Stephanie L. McGee said:

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this. I know for one that this new imprint/line will stave off the execution axe for one of my WiPs. It’s great to sort of see what they might be looking for. Thanks again.

  11. Marie Lu said:

    Even Southern Cal is having a worse-than-usual week; gray chilly drizzle, blegh!

    I’m fascinated by this new line. I’m one of their target audiences so I’m very much looking forward to seeing what titles come out!

  12. Marie Lu said:

    Btw–super-interested in seeing some stories that take place in college/grad school instead of in high school. I gravitate back and forth between the YA and General Fiction aisles, and the one thing that always seemed scarce were stories that took place in those middle years. It’s always either high school angst or mid-life crisis. College had its fair share of drama, if I recall–and probably even more soul-searching and angst!

  13. Ellen B said:

    This sounds like a really interesting line – whatever shelving solution they find, I do hope it helps the line to become enormously successful, and ideally make it across the Atlantic to me.

    That may be because I saw a mention of PREP by Curtis Sittenfield and swooned, though 🙂

  14. Laer Carroll said:

    “New Adult” is about post-high-school, while “Chick Lit” is about post-college. As it matures (if it does) it will also expand beyond the original tight definition, and there will be a lot of cross-over between the genres. I would like NA and YA to be shelved next to each other.

  15. Emily Cross said:

    Its about time that 20 somethings got a look in! There is some great YA fiction out there and it would be amazing to have some fiction focused on our age group.
    I hope it catches on, these books need their own section!
    Think its important that publishing industry realises that those of us who are 20 something have no mortgage or dependents and have a job = expendable income.
    Great post 🙂

  16. Tim of Angle said:

    ‘It was 5 degrees walking to the office this morning. Can somebody remind me why I live in Denver and not San Diego?’

    Take your current rent/mortgage payment.
    Double it and ponder the result.

    That’s why you live in Denver, not San Diego.

  17. Anonymous said:

    How is this “new adult” sub-genre different from chick-lit? Both feature young 20-something characters at that new adult time of their lives (moving away from home for the first time, getting their first big job after college, etc.).

  18. Kristen said:

    This is great news! I love stories targeting that age group, and it’s been a headache trying to find them between the teen and adult sections.

    This also fits the genre of novel I’ve been writing, so I really hope the line succeeds!

  19. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for clearing all this up, Kristin. I’m still confused, however — about how the decisions will be made and if will it be to the detriment or help of the book as far as sales go.

    Also, there is a huge difference between a book like PREP and SLAM, both of which I’ve read. PREP was clearly adult lit fiction (and had the nurmerous sex scenes and complicated relationships to prove it) and SLAM was very much a YA — in its delivery and execution, regardless of the “sex.”

    Thusly, having to pick one shelf space for a book to occupy might be a heck of a lot more complicated that it first appears.

  20. Erin said:

    I’ve been following the news of this “new adult” line with a lot of excitement, because I have a book that falls into this category and was excited to think there was finally a genre I could name that felt right. However, here’s my question. Before we even get to where to shelf the books in the stores, how do authors know what agents to query? It will surely be a while before listings will be updated on Agent Query and Guide to Literary Agents and Jeff Herman’s book to reflect what agents are interested in this new genre. How do we know who to query now to help get this new genre off the ground? Do we query agents seeking YA books?

  21. Rachel Bateman said:

    I am excited about this New Adult thing. I have a WIP that I love, but had shelved to work on other things mostly because the characters fall into that perceived wasteland of ages. Finding out there is now a publisher out there who is looking for precisely that is incredibly exciting. I have pulled the old WIP out, dusted it off, and am now doing some intense edits on it.

    Also, I am pretty jealous of your five degrees. When I got to the office this morning, it was –23. Without wind chill. I think I need some hot cocoa.

  22. Kara said:

    When you called for questions before your trip to New York, the one that popped into my mind was “Where are the books for older teens and 20-somethings?” I didn’t ask it, but you managed to come up with an answer anyway!

    I am very excited about this. In modern society, I think most people truly “come of age” when they move out on their own, but there are so few books that people (like me) at that stage in their lives can relate to.

  23. Sierra Godfrey said:

    I support shelving it in the general fiction section. I wonder, does shelving them in YA “talk down” to them? It would me, were I that age. I DID me, when I was that age, despite YA containing some really kick arse fiction.

  24. Anonymous said:

    I thought Emily Giffin’s “Something Borrowed” was considered solidly chick lit. The protagonist was 29, soon to be 30. That upcoming birthday was what spurred the *change* incident that set the plot in motion. (Now I’m thoroughly confused about this new line.)???

  25. gapyeargirl123 said:

    “Alas, they don’t do that. Right now, the system is set up so a publisher is forced to choose where to shelve it.

    Why don’t they do this? Here in the UK, it’s not unusual to have books shelved in two or more sections. I look for the stuff I like to read under the ‘horror’ (or, if they’ve got it, ‘PNR/UF’) section first, but if I don’t find what I’m looking for there, I’ll also look in fantasy or romance, or depending on the store, sometimes just ‘fiction’. It sounds really strange not to try shelving things in different places. Does anyone know why they do this in the UK, but by the sound of things, not in the US?

  26. terripatrick said:

    This is fascinating news, thanks for sharing! It also is my target audience for both my romance novels and my non-fiction.

    I met a lot of these readers when I returned to college last year, and know they are avid and voracious readers. They also know the library already has more than they have time to read.

    So it will be fascinating to see how this market is targeted. Trends are not their thing.

  27. Horserider said:

    “I stopped looking at “Young Adult” books by the time I was 15.”

    Why?? I’m 16 and I can’t imagine not checking the YA section first every time I walk into the bookstore. In fact, it’s the only section I check. Hunger Games, Sarah Dessen, and most of the other awesome books I read come out of that section.

  28. Heather said:

    Horserider: I was a book snob, lol. The first real “chapter books” I picked up when I was about 8 or 9 were Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson. I used to go to the childrens/YA section after that only because my mom was a little paranoid about what I’d find in the “adult” section. Then I got into paranormal/fantasy and YA at the time was mostly sweet valley high-type of stuff. I’d have loved this trend in YA books when I was younger. I have a MUCH wider range of what I read now and it’s now habit that I just don’t go over there anymore. Although a lot of really great book are in YA now, I might have to step over there now 😛