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May 2018
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Is the Term ‘New Adult’ the Right Fit for Your Novel?

Kristin Nelson

Once in a blue moon, a new term gets introduced into the publishing lexicon. I’m sure this will date me, but do you guys remember ‘Chick Lit’ from mid-2000s? It was a word used by agents and editors for years—until the genre became so saturated, using the term was the kiss of death for selling a project. Agents fairly quickly adapted new euphemisms for essentially the same type of story.

The phrase ‘new adult’ is just the latest new-fangled publishing word being used (and actually it’s not that new). A quick look in our query inbox definitely highlights that writers are having some confusion about how it might be defined and how those in publishing actually use this genre designation.

First, a little history. The term ‘new adult’ evolved from the romance publishing sector. Authors looking to write college-age protagonists embarking on their first intense (but still adult) romantic relationship needed a way to distinguish the story from contemporary romance (which traditionally featured characters in late 20s/30s and already in the workforce). As a side note, several noted NA romance authors cite my author Simone Elkeles’s young adult novel Perfect Chemistry as the the original inspiration to write their first new adult romance stories. How cool is that? So it was romance writers from the adult side who initially coined and used the term ‘new adult.’

Because of this, publishing professionals tend to only use the term when selling-in romance novels with college-age protagonists.

Wait, you say. What about young adult novels that have college-aged protags? Obviously Rowell’s Fangirl comes to mind as does Printz winner We are Okay by Nina LaCour. These are two great examples of young adult titles with slightly older characters—freshman in college. However, they are still coming-of-age stories at their core, so we don’t call them new adult. We simply call them YA with older, out-of-high school characters so as to not confuse the issue with editors. The important part, for writers, is distinguishing why it should be considered YA rather than adult literature. Take Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep, a novel that also deals with older teens but is YA for its coming of age angst. The answer of YA vs adult lit lies more in the complexity of the writing and how the material was handled in the story rather than the specific age of the protagonist. Yep. Not always simple or clear cut. 

In general, for a romance novel with college-aged characters, ‘new adult’ as a term that works. For a YA novel with college freshman characters, the term ‘new adult’ is not the fit for you.

Recent News
Think Like an Agent

How to Make the Most of Your Conference Experience

By Quressa Robinson

It is that time of year where editors and agent start the conference circuit. So far I’ve been to three with two more still scheduled. When I first started as an agent, I ambitiously attended eight conferences in one year—all in different states. It was overwhelming, so I cut it down to five this year—four in different states and one local. Five is a fine number, but my workload has changed. I’m still a newer agent, but my client list has grown and so has my responsibility. Five conferences were just too many, and I ended up working far more nights and weekends to catch up on my regular responsibilities post-conference. And, let’s face it, as an agent I’m already working tons of nights and weekends, so down time has become extremely sacred. This means only three conferences for me next year.

Conferences are great places for authors to meet new agents who are actively building their lists. But as I mentioned, over time agents attend less and less. So when you have the opportunity to meet and agent in person, how can you can get the most out of that interaction?  What are the other benefits of writers conferences?


While a conference is a great way to make a connection with an agent or editor, it is also a great place to meet other writers! All of my clients have critique groups, or CPs (critique partners). This was obviously beneficial as their CPs helped them whip their manuscripts into query-ready shape. But it’s also a benefit to me. I know my clients will be running their works-in-progress by their CPs before sending them off to me for comment. That’s a load off my overworked reading brain! I know my eyes won’t be the first, and that my clients have done their due diligence to make sure they’re sending me the very best work possible. That is a level of professionalism I can appreciate.

You can find your CPs at writers conferences. You’re in a hotel full (mostly) of people at the same stage. I know most of us in this industry are introverts, but you can do it! Talk to people, make friends, make connections.

Ask Questions

When I attend conferences I participate in various ways from manuscript critiques, to query critiques, to one-on-one pitch sessions.  Often, the time I need to share my thoughts doesn’t take up the full allotted time, so I ask participants if they have questions. Almost always, they don’t. They aren’t prepared. They have a whole, live agent in front of them but don’t have any inquiries. I find this puzzling. You have me at your disposal. If there is time for questions, seize the moment and ask. If you think you’ll freeze up, prep beforehand and write your questions down. I won’t mind if you need to pull out your sheet of paper. I absolutely am delighted to answer questions and demystify the world of book publishing.


I didn’t learn about BarCon until I started working on the adult SFF side as an editor. For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is when conference goers and those who might not have signed up for the conference—for financial reasons or because it became full—hang out at the hotel bar where the conference is being held. BarCon seems to have picked up outside of the SFF conferences and are happening at your standard writers conference. This gives you the opportunity to chat up agents and editors who are hanging out at the bar to give writers another chance to interact with them.

It’s great to offer to buy an agent or editor a drink. After our drink tickets run out we tend to start inching toward the door. But, BarCon is an awesome opportunity to give an elevator pitch, ask questions, or even expand on a story idea and get feedback.

And don’t feel intimidated if you see agents and editors hanging out in a group. Conferences are a great way for us to network with each other. Just come on over!

 Elevator Pitching

Please don’t elevator pitch agents and editors in the bathroom, in the elevator as we are on our way to our room, in the hallway as we walk to our room, or while we are trying to have a quiet moment alone. But when you do have a chance to grab our attention and we ask you for your pitch, give it to us. And be sure to ask for feedback.

 Don’t Be Defensive

I know it’s hard to get critiqued in person, but that is what you signed up for. We are professionals who have been doing this for many years (over six in my case). The feedback we give you is no different than the feedback we give our clients. It may actually be gentler 😀. I know it’s tough, but please refrain from getting defensive, argumentative, or dismissive. If you don’t agree, you don’t have to take our advice. So nod, ask questions if there is time, say thanks/good luck/have a great conference and move on.


One of the benefits of attending a conference is that if an agent requests to see your work you get a quicker read. Instead of going into the unsolicited query—or slush—queue, you get bumped up to requested query. But there is a timeline in which you have to actually send your query. Every agent is different. For me I only consider something from a conference a “requested query” for about six months. That’s about the length of time I might remember meeting a writer or their pitch. But beyond that timeframe, I won’t bump it up in my queue. It now gets read in the order received. This is especially true if I receive something after a full year.

If you aren’t ready to submit when you get a request, that’s okay. You can let the agent know. It’s fine to attend a conference to learn more and to grow as a writer. That’s the point. You get to refine your ideas and work on your craft while learning about the industry.

Now that you’re armed with the right mindset, remember to have fun! Hopefully, I’ll see you on the conference circuit!

Kristin's Book Club

A Poetry Collection Every Woman Needs

On Sunday, book club will be tackling our first selection of poetry in the history of our club: Rupi Kaur’s powerful debut MILK & HONEY. This is a collection of poetry and prose about violence, abuse, love, and survival. 

A #1 New York Times bestseller, the Huffington Post calls it “the poetry collection every woman needs on her nightstand or coffee table. Accompanied by her own sketches, the beautifully honest poems read like the everyday, collective experiences of today’s modern woman.”

Description from book jacket:

The book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. Milk and Honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

As I did for book club members, I do want to highlight that part one of this collection is graphic on the topic of rape and incest. If that is a trigger for you, don’t miss this gorgeous, eloquent collection but you might want to begin reading with part two. 


Fiction – THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

New Releases

Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue

by Jeff Seymour

From debut author Jeff Seymour and bestselling illustrator Brett Helquist (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) comes this breathtaking fantasy adventure, starring an extraordinary new heroine and set in an unforgettable world where ships can fly.

It takes a very special crew to keep the cloudship Orion running, and no one knows that better than Nadya Skylung, who tends the cloud garden that keeps the ship afloat. When the unthinkable happens and pirates attack, Nadya and the other children aboard–all orphans taken in by the kindhearted Captain Nic–narrowly escape, but the rest of the crew is captured. Alone and far from help, only Nadya and her four brave and loyal friends can take back the Orion and rescue the crew. And she’ll risk life and limb to save the only family she’s ever known. But . . . this attack was no accident. What exactly are the pirates looking for? Could it be Nadya they’ve been after all along?

Buy It Here:


Love and Other Carnivorous Plants

by Florence Gonsalves

A darkly funny debut for fans of Becky Albertalli, Matthew Quick, and Ned Vizzini about a nineteen-year-old girl who’s consumed by love, grief, and the many-tentacled beast of self-destructive behavior.

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is. With a starkly memorable voice that’s at turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Love and Other Carnivorous Plantsbrilliantly captures the painful turning point between an adolescence that’s slipping away and the overwhelming uncertainty of the future.

Buy It Here:


Crossing the Line

by Simone Elkeles

A high-stakes story of star-crossed lovers from Simone Elkeles, the New York Times bestselling author of the Perfect Chemistry series.

To escape his abusive stepdad, bad boy Ryan Hess runs from his tiny Texas border town to Mexico. But his plans to keep his head down and stay out of trouble are shattered the minute he meets the beautiful and totally out of his league Dalila Sandoval.

Dalila Sandoval shouldn’t even know someone like Ryan Hess. The daughter of one of the wealthiest lawyers in Mexico, Dalila is focused on studying and planning for her bright future. Ryan is only a distraction from her dreams, but she’s never felt more alive than when she’s by his side.

Ryan and Dalila are wrong for each other in every way. And yet they can’t resist the sparks that fly when they’re together. But their love is like a flame burning too close to the fuse.

Something is going to explode. Will their love be strong enough to survive? Or will it burn them both?

Buy It Here:


The Fourth Monkey

by J.D. Barker

(Paperback Edition)

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called “a talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

Two days to save her . . .

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

One day . . .

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows that even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.


With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out as the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

Buy It Here:

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