Like lots of other children of the 80s and 90s, I grew up reading the many offshoots of the Sweet Valley series, including the approximately 75 books of the Sweet Valley University series, so it wasn’t until 2009, when I attempted to query my first manuscript, that I learned that apparently no one’s interested in books set in college. To quote directly from the (really, really lovely) very first rejection I received:
“My biggest concern here is that the YA market overall has not been terribly successful with books set on college campuses—I think the YA’s who would be the right age to read them tend to read adult chick lit instead, and the 14/15 year olds prefer books with high school settings.”
After another five or so similar rejections, I shut it down. Yes, I loved the series I’d written, and I continued to write it for fun, but I knew I’d never again try to pitch it or any other book in this age range. (Yes, I am so old that it was not even yet “New Adult” or “Upper YA.” It was just “That thing we can’t sell.”) More importantly, yes, I was sad for me and my series, but I was sadder to hear that books in this range would always be few and far between. I’d devoured M. Apostalina’s Meri Sugarman series, fell hard and fast for Diana Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl series, and of course there were always my beloved SVU’s, and these agents were telling me that was basically it?
Fast forward three years and the general response to the “New Adult” category (i.e. the category of books featuring protagonists aged 18-23ish) hasn’t changed – just today I watched several successful YA agents discuss on Twitter just how unmarketable New Adult still is. But here’s what I feel like I can firmly say today that I couldn’t say three years ago: You’re wrong. Continue reading