Audience: Adult or Young Adult?

I’ve always written for a YA audience because I think that’s the age group my style most appeals to. But I’ve been thinking lately: if I ever actually get a publishing deal, it’ll probably be a lot harder to sell YA books. I’m not in this for the money, but the point remains that adults usually have money, and kids and teens don’t. If an adult wants my book, they’d just have to go into the store and buy it. But with a younger audience, I not only have to advertise the book to the kids (which would probably be harder by itself) but then they have to convince their parents to give them the money for it.

Am I right about this? It sounds to me like writing and marketing to adults would actually be easier than doing it for a YA audience.

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Adult for me. Easier for me.

I think they about the same tbh.

Adults buy kids books for holidays, kids buy their own books with report card money, etc.

And either genre depends on how successful you are too, so it’s not really that direct of a comparison.

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There are a lot of popular young adult books. I don’t think it’ll be hard to publish one. Not just kids and teens buy young adult books. Well mainly teens though, but they have enough money to buy a book. The highest price is probably 14 dollars.Why not give it a try? Try doing both.

New Adult

But seriously, if you’re going to self-pub, NA is a wonderful place to start. The market is starved for more NA stories and self-pubbers are doing really well in that age demo.

Also, I think about 40% of the YA audience are over 18. So I wouldn’t worry too much.


I’m new Adult. A majority of my characters are in their twenties with the random 30 or 40 something year old. Most of my humour stuff is teen geared though.

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Since we’ve pulled up the dreaded numbers:

  • Middle grade (8-12 yrs)
  • Teen Fiction/YA (13-17 yrs)
  • College Fiction/NA (18-25 yrs)
  • Adult Fiction (25+)

You’ll also have to account for setting as well. You could have YA books with 19 year old protagonists etc.

New Adult folk spend money btw. All my Patreon backers are college folk.

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New Adult would be good.

Also, it’s kinda a misconception that YA books are harder to sell. In self publishing, yes, but in traditional, not as much. YA authors are still getting advances and royalty checks like other authors.

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A huge number of readers of YA are adults. Back in 2017 The Atlantic claimed over half were. It’s why you see so many books that should be shelved adult (Contagion by Erin Bowman, more recently Serpent & Dove with its steamy sex scenes) being shelved in YA instead of adult because of the crossover audience that gets bigger sales. My point being, don’t worry about not writing YA because of the money.

I agree with this. The estimates go as high as 65% of YA sales being to adults who read them themselves. It’s got to the point where publishers are trying to re-package some adult books as YA, because YA is the hotter category (in other words, they’re trying to reach adult readers by promoting the books as YA). Add to that the percentage that adults buy for their 12+ kids.

The weakness of YA is that the young buyers generally don’t buy eBooks - they buy physical books in bookshops. That’s a harder place for independent publishers to reach.


Problem with ‘New Adult’ - it isn’t just an age category, it’s a content advisory too. It has become synonymous with “steamy sex”. So unless your books have that, you might want to avoid that category label.

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I feel like you might be overthinking it a little. xD

It really depends on the teen because while sure, there are teens where they have to convince their parents to pay for it, there are plenty of parents who are willing to buy their kids any book that they like. My friends all had that kind of parent and so did I. I was able to buy any book I wanted as long as it was under 15 dollars. And even now as an adult, I still ask my parents to buy me a book because I don’t really have the money. xD And because they’re also low on money, they tend to give me “the look” and debate about it. Usually they will give in, but most of the time, they’ll complain about how I have too many books to read anyway. Haha But once I get my paychecks, I’m always happy to go buy more books. xD

But honestly, YA readers will still find ways to get your book. Even if they can’t buy it, they can still get it at a library, whether the one at school or a local library. Or, they can try to borrow it from a friend who has it or just simply earn money for it. And besides, while you’re writing to a younger audience, you will still have plenty of adult readers who are in love with the YA category genre. This is exactly how Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Divergent, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and many other stories become huge: people will pick it up no matter what if they enjoy your storyline and characters.

YA is also a very popular category so that right there tells you that a large majority of readers are willing to put in the effort to get into YA fantasy.

So honestly, there isn’t much of a problem in finding your audience. :woman_shrugging: :wink:

What’s report card money? xD I never got money for getting a report card or getting good grades on my report card… :rofl:

But yeah, I totally agree: adults buy kids books for holidays and even if they don’t, they’ll still buy it eventually. The only problem with this though is if you live in a religious household because then if your fantasy is centered around magic or something that’s considered “sinful,” your parents will never buy you said book. There’s a ton of these parents who banned their kids from reading stories like Harry Potter, but just because there were people who did this didn’t mean that Harry Potter became a flop. It obviously never did. :wink:

I feel like this is a misconception within the publishing industry. Some agents or publishers may not like how your story doesn’t have sex in it (because "sex sells) but this doesn’t mean that an older age category (YA, NA, and A) needs to have sex in it. Like, when people think of “Adult” stories, they automatically assume that your book is erotica. This is something that Jenna Moreci covered in a video where she described each category where not all adult books are erotica but all erotica books are adult books. xD

But I mean, you can have a NA story without sex and still sell it well. In fact, this is what happened with Rachel Hollis. She wrote a book called Party Girl where it’s a New Adult contemporary how a young woman goes to LA and becomes a party planner for major Hollywood events for celebrities. Nearly every agent and publisher she talked with loved her book, but they all said they wouldn’t give her a contract unless she added more steamy, sexy scenes. And became Rachel isn’t that kind of writer, she refused. It went against her ideals and also the idea of her character who is supposed to be portrayed as an innocent person, specifically as a virgin. Each and every one of those agents and publishers had told her that her book would fail easily because it didn’t have those steamy scenes. She self-published her book later on and it became a huge hit. Not only that, but she eventually became traditionally published with another book of hers (a self-tip motivational book) where she also became a best-selling author.

And, to give more insight into it, Christine Riccio (a BookTuber) has a debut book (which also became a bestselling book) called Again, but Better and is both for the YA and NA audiences. The book does have a sex scene, but it’s very mild and reads more like a YA scene.

Overall, NA is just an age category. Just like middle grade, YA and Adult, it tells you nothing of what the requirements are. NA stories can have sex and can have explicit sex scenes and can also have erotica stories within it if you wish, but it’s not a requirement and it’s not going to make you not get published. Agents and publishers reject you for all sorts of reasons, and the number one reason is because it’s not their kind of story because they’re subjective toward the books they accept or reject. But just like everyone else, they may have an idea of what people want, but they can also be kind of entitled to that opinion. It happens all the time in any profession, but it isn’t meant to be a universal thing and that it’s never going to sell.

Heck, people told George Lucas that Star Wars was never going to be a big movie. People, even the actors, told Gene Roddenberry that no one is going to watch Star Trek. And yet, here we are with these two science fiction film and shows as a major cultural impact on society for the last fifty years. It’s the same thing for any industry. :woman_shrugging:


Nopity nope. Publishers likes to pretend it’s just college hook-up books, but it’s not. Everyone except the publishers knows this.

Contemporary NA is a genre. NA on its own is not.


From my understanding, YA is still pretty popular (and one of the easiest to market with social media). The New Adult genre isn’t quite…there yet - a lot of NA writers still advertise as YA for the publicity - but the NA genre definitely deserves more attention. It also depends on the subgenre (YA Fantasy or romance does a lot better than say, YA mystery).

Really, one of the only things that separates the two is the age of your characters and the amount of mature content. These are easy changes, but if your style appeals to YA, then I don’t see why you would change your whole style

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YA fantasy is booming right now, it’s all over Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. There are a lot if popular book series that have gained huge fanbases over the last few years and it’s not just teens reading them. A lot of adults feel drawn to them as they often seem a lot more character-driven than adult stories, which can sometimes seem a little bland.

Part of this is probably the lack of new adult as an actually acknowledged demographic by publishers, so a lot of (actual) young adults might prefer YA books over adult books.

Another thing is, YA fantasy is very saturated with female authors, which is interesting. Some people might say YA books aren’t real or serious books and that it’s easier to get an actual book deal if you’re a white, middle-aged dude. It sometimes seems like, even if a female writer is writing adult fantasy, those books are automatically crammed into the YA section.


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I’d love it if more readers would get it too - but there are enough ‘influencers’ out there defining the category as ‘college hook-up books’ that it will be a struggle to fix that. It started with Fifty Shades, I think.

Short term, the author of a non-steamy story targeting the 18-25 age group has to decide whether to help fix the misperception by bucking it (as Rachel Hollis successfully did, according to @Alicia22M), or just avoid the confusion by sticking to the broader YA and Adult categories.

There are lots of these unfortunate and annoying labeling pitfalls. For example, the one I have up on WP is an almost-no-romance YA fantasy with a highland clans setting partly inspired by the Scottish highland clan society. You’d think I could use “highland fantasy” or something like that in the blurb, right? No way! It’s completely given over to a particular species of bare-chested bodice-ripping steamy romance, because some early writers made it that way.

Here’s a typical example of what you get when you look up NA books (this is from Goodreads):
Mind you, all those bare chests and six-packs remind me of ‘teen fiction’ on Wattpad :slight_smile:

Did you try and search NA Fantasy? Or any NA * insert genre here*?

Because NA Fantasy looks like this:

NA is about as diverse as any of the other age demographics. When you just search for NA on its own, all the contemporary Romances comes up as that is what the publishers wanna sell NA as. If you specify your search, you’ll get a lot more variety. Which is kind of the root of the issue.

Everyone knows NA is diverse when it comes to content. Except the publishers.

And in regards to the whole misconception; join my struggle. People keep thinking my series is werewolf, because it has the word “shifter” tagged and included in the blurb. There are no wolf shifters in my stories (’:

Hey, good point. But those searches and lists are pretty vexed, because authors and their publishers tag the book with every category they think will work. For example, I found all those books classified as “YA” in Goodreads and Amazon. I also found Uprooted under “Children’s books”. The MC is seventeen. In some cases, this is just typical ‘reaching’ to maximize exposure; in others it might be ‘tag abuse’ like you see so much on WP. I don’t know all the stories, so can’t say.

But it doesn’t change my point - there’s a perception, whether it’s a mis-perception or not. And if there are multiple perceptions, at least one of them is the 50 Shades perception. If it’s changing toward something more reasonable, great!

I also don’t think it’s really a publisher-driven misperception, because, as far as I know, this category was created and is driven much more by self-published authors than publishers, and it’s the readers as much as the writers who are shelving the books and contributing to the classification. The trad publishers are for the most part on the sidelines, looking suspiciously at the category and waiting to see if it becomes a real ‘thing’ they should jump on.

But that’s just my (mis-)perception.