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Boomer books: a new genre?

 

Author Claude Nougat

There is a wildfire raging  about one of the latest categories trying to burst on the genre scene: boomer books.

Author Claude Nougat’s recent blog put a fine point on the discussion. You can read the entire blog at Boomer Cafe, but here is the intro.

A new genre is born, a pendant to Young Adult literature, with one difference: Baby Boomer novels address “coming of old age” issues just as Young Adult novels are concerned with just coming of age. The word “age,” or “aging,” used to scare marketers intent on targeting the young, but no more. With a huge and growing market of some 70 million boomers — technically, all those born between 1946 and 1964 — Hollywood was the first to notice the change in its audience. Recent Baby Boomer movies, such as RED, Hope Springs, or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, have all been smashing successes.

When The Passive Voice picked up the discussion and sited to Claude’s article, many people commented and said, in effect, no way. Claude Nougat herself joined in the discussion thread and added a note of clarification about the boomer genre (what she refers to in the thread as BB , i.e., Baby Boomer).

1. BB literature is not about aging per se. Like YA literature, it is centered on TRANSITION from one life stage to another; in the case of YA, teenagers transit to adulthood; New Adult(or NA)is centered on young adults reaching maturity, something that does NOT happen in the age group going from 14 to 18 years, the traditional YA group(they’re too young for that, reaching full maturity is a long process); BB is focused on the last stage in life, perhaps the most interesting transition because as you leave your work behind, you find your system of daily references is challenged and, like a teenager, you find yourself once again asking some fundamental questions about your life. You know time is running out on you and this is your last chance to take a stand – true fodder for novels of all types, ranging from comedy to tragedy (just like YA – hence BB is a mirror image of YA, on the other side of maturity!)

2. Why should BB lit become suddenly important now? That’s a simple economic observation: the size of the market is what does it! YA themes had been around since Shakespeare but they jelled into a big-selling genre in the 1960s and 1970s because of the wave of baby boomers in that age group! Demographics do matter in marketing! Boomers are interested in reading books that raise questions of direct concern to them as they transited into adulthood.

 

I agree entirely with Ms. Nougat that the Boomer books genre is among us, taking shape before our eyes.  She has made the point also that the importance of the whole genre thing is the weight it carries for authors as they market their books. A genre home provides a place for people to find certain types of books.  It tells book sellers of print or digital books where to shelve books so readers can find them with the least amount of trouble.

Now let me play the devil’s advocate and issue a challenge.  A genre cries out for a definition.  It’s not good enough to say, I  know it when I see it.

Here’s the challenge.  Define Boomer books in one sentence.

Caleb Pirtle and I got in an email exchange about this, and discussed it by phone.  A little while later, he took his first crack at a working definition.

“Boomer books reflect fundamental human issues and can be any genre, but they are character-driven stories centered around those who have the experience to understand life: its trials, its tribulations, its triumphs, and its contradictions.

Defining the genre is a lot harder than it looks.

Why don’t you take a stab at it?  As your high school English teacher would have put it: Please define “Boomer books genre.”

(Stephen Woodfin is a baby boomer attorney and author of legal thrillers and murder mysteries.)

 

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/jvonbargen Jo VonBargen

    Good job, Stephen! I like Caleb’s definition.

  • Sara Marie Hogg

    I have written one (published 3 years ago), sort of in anticipation of this phenomena, in which the hero and heroine are well over fifty, have a passionate romance, and travel about getting into capers that would be difficult for some young, healthy twenty-year-olds. These characters have to adapt for the aches and pains, loss of memory, but win out. I had no intention of injecting humor into this book, but the characters provided that against my will, and often it results because of their “age.” It is written under a pseudonym and is a strange and eerie book.

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    Before publication, I began adding the tags, “baby boomer” and “boomers,” to any and every article, post, blog, etc. I’ve written related to my novel, “The Tourist Killer.” My heroine is in her 60s and most of the other primary characters are in their 50s or 60s. I included cultural references that a boomer would pick up quickly — I hope that a younger reader might be inspired to look them up later.

    Define the genre? Hmm…

    Books written by, about, or for people born between 1946 and 1964.

    • http://www.venturegalleries.com Stephen Woodfin

      FC, That’s a good stab at it. Here are some issues I see with your def. “By” would mean that only authors between the ages of 48 and 66 could write them. “About”–does that mean that the protagonist must fall within that age range, the villain, one character out of many, or what? “For”–if that means the 48-66 yoas are the target audience, you may be getting close. If the purpose of a genre is to define the target audience, the “for” approach may be the ticket. Of course, one wold hope that a book targeted at boomers would contain some insight and wisdom that would have appeal to people outside that age group.

      • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

        “that would have appeal to people outside that age group”

        Why try to be all things to all people?

        Erotica is one example of a genre that often times has limited appeal to those not so inclined to read that genre.

        There are others. I’m not a big fan of true crime.

        Some people don’t like historical novels.

        The BB market is probably the largest market segment out there. Why not zero in on it and write something for them — almost exclusively?

        One problem is that baby boomers most likely drive ALL the markets/genres. It might behoove the author to write to the BB market in their chosen genre. Over sixty vampires. Over fifty-five _________’s, you name it!

  • Darlene Jones

    I love the idea of a boomer category. We’re the largest group of consumers and have the culture of reading books as, for many of us, that was all we had growing up – no TV and certainly no electronic gadgets. I like Caleb’s definition and I won’t try to improve on it. I do think my books could be categorized as “boomer” and I know that the BBs who have read them really like them.

  • http://claudenougat.blogspot.com/ Claude Nougat

    Stephen, I hadn’t realized you’d picked up on this BB thing, thanks for posting about it, much appreciated! Actually, it’s turning into quite a phenomenon, the number of comments on Passive Guy’s website is simply astounding, and also on The Kindle Nation Daily and soon on other places too, I’m told. In some ways, I’m the first surprised: think of it, it’s nothing really new, I just observed what was already taking shape out there!

    And the observation became a strong conviction when I saw how Deborah Moggach’s delightful novel about a bunch of British retirees romping around in India suddenly became an unexpected hit movie this summer. The marketing of course was really good, the actors excellent (particularly Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), a new title, different from the book, was given to the movie, you may have seen it: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But success came and it was well-deserved. Indeed, it’s been so successful that now a sequel is in the works!

    No question about it: Hollywood was the first to take note of this new boomer market and I’m sure that the publishing industry can’t be far behind. The comparison with YA lit is fundamental: I’m convinced it’s a repeat of what boomers did 40 years ago to novels addressing their coming-of-age concerns. BB lit (or boomer literature), like YA, spans across all genres to satisfy all tastes, and like YA, they share the particularity of focusing on themes that are relevant to boomers as a group with the “experience of half a lifetime” (mind you going over and under the born in 1946-64 definition).

    I’ve set up a group to discuss BB novels on Goodreads about a month ago and it’s been growing by leaps and bounds: we’re now some 120 members with over 30 book titles on our bookshelf. We’ve decided to read one BB novel per month (poll to select title is ending today – soif you’re interested hurry and join!). The idea is to explore boomer literature and define its limits – I’ve already been told that it should include short stories, poetry and non fiction!

    Here’s the link, do come and visit: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/81261-baby-boomer-novels-a-new-genre

    Oh, by the way, I love Caleb’s definition!

  • Lynn Schneider

    I think, as baby boomers, we had a lot of experiences, and also had a lot of social restrictions put on us, that are ripe for exploitation into great plots. Why our characters developed the way they did, why things happened the way they did. Take for instance, that back in the sixties, we did not have answering machines, let alone cell phones. If a man called a woman, and she declined to answer, and then she chose to disappear, the man would never now that, especially if he were serving in the military a half world away. I used this in one of my baby boomer novels. That wouldn’t happen today, and younger readers might not get that, how it would have been possible back then to lose track of someone completely. We couldn’t just google them or find them on Facebook.

    I’ve long felt there was a market for baby boomer literature, and am delighted to see the interest in it!

    • Lynn Schneider

      That would be “know” that.

    • http://www.venturegalleries.com Stephen Woodfin

      Lynn,

      The notion of boomer books providing a snapshot of another era is one of the things that makes them so attractive. Books that take that approach to the boomer genre are really wearing the historical fiction hat as well as the boomer hat. This is another reason why it is hard to define the boomer genre. It embraces many types of books, but also has its own unique vibe. Thanks for the comment and good luck publishing your boomer books. SW

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  • Seye Oduyemi

    BB books are books written not necessarily by a BB,but that deal with stories that appeal to the needs of a large segment of BB population and must be good stories well written.

    • http://www.venturegalleries.com Stephen Woodfin

      Seye, I agree entirely. The kicker when it comes to a definition of BB books as a genre is to pinpoint the needs and appeal so that readers know what they are getting when they look for books in the BB genre. Thanks for the comment.

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