Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing and publishing fiction, as well as commentary on politics, cultural trends, book reviews and family.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Call for a New Literary Genre: Older Adult Fiction

The hottest market for novels these days is a category called Young Adult Fiction.  Most agents and publishers, even those who are closed to new submissions, are seeking out YA manuscripts.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance, all established genres in their own right, are featured prominently in Young Adult novels. The YA category implies an interplay of those categories with Internet-age speed, cryptic use of language (as in texting), edgy plots and non-conventional sequencing. 

The consumers of YA Fiction have little tolerance for exposition, their lives having been shaped by screen time, so these books are often indistinguishable from screen plays or film scripts.  And, since the readers are computer-savvy, social media-oriented and mobile, there is a strong preference for electronic content.

So pervasive is the fascination with the YA genre that its elements are increasingly finding their way into general fiction.  Books with obscure plots, interconnected stories within stories, cartoon-sketch characters and disturbing realism are often favored by book reviewers, who are drawn to anything unique and virtuosic.

But, as the Baby Boomers expand the ranks of older Americans, it is the Older Adult category that makes up the fastest growing demographic among consumers of books.  As the Boomers move from career to retirement, they will have more time to read.  At this point, the OAs are the last hold-outs in traditional bookstores, active in book groups and migrating to electronic books on a slower track than their juniors.

Because the OA category is so broad and growing so rapidly, there has not been an easy way to get a handle on their preferences in fiction.  Older adults have tended to buy paperbacks on the New Arrivals table in bookstores or whatever is atop the New York Times Bestseller List, though their satisfaction with the literature they are consuming is more nuanced.

If the publishing industry could be a fly-on-the-wall in OA book groups, they might be surprised at the level of frustration with the stunningly unique new books that come out to great fanfare, but slip right back off the charts as quickly as they came.  There is a palpable longing for stories with depth and coherence, tales that tap into universal themes, conclusions that leave the reader satisfied instead of confused.

Most commercial enterprises in the free market economy today are tuned in to the expanding OA demographic, with vendors of food and condos and clothing accommodating to the tastes of this large population of Older Adults with money and time on their hands.  I wonder if booksellers, publishers, agents and writers are paying attention.  

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