Baby Boomer Lit…A New Genre for CBA?

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

A client forwarded a link to a guest blog that’s been circulating, titled “Is Baby Boomer Lit the Next Hot Genre?” by Claude Nougat. You can view it here. She lays the groundwork by summarizing how this audience opportunity was first seen by Hollywood. Writers and publishers in the CBA market should pay attention to them as well.

Claude recounts that movies such as RED, The King’s Speech, and The Descendants, among others, were produced in response to recognizing this substantial audience opportunity. She urges publishers to “cater to them” and supports her argument by paralleling Baby Boomer Lit to YA lit, which had its beginnings in the 1970s when Boomers were its audience. That was the first transition of this post-WWII generation. The YA genre has continued to grow ever since.

These 77+ million people are transitioning again as they enter retirement.They have more time to read, and according to Claude, they once again are looking for nonfiction subject matter and story characters with whom they can relate. I encourage you to read her entire post. The points she makes are compelling. She has started a Goodreads Group that discusses Boomer Lit. As of mid-March there were 273 members, and it is growing fast.

As I read the post I noted that most of Hollywood isn’t interested in promoting Christian values and faith, at least in a positive way. And we can’t expect anything different from general market publishers, who are already alert to this audience and consider 2013 “a ‘magic’ year for the birth of this new genre.” Oh…and these Boomers buy print books.

It’s up to us in Christian publishing to offer books that present Boomers with real hope for their future. But CBA often lags behind the trends. Still, 77 million people comprise an impressive potential audience that should get our quick attention. What will it take to help Christian publishers to risk embracing Baby Boomer Lit?

How about some outstanding manuscripts for this audience? It’s a challenge for you as authors and for the agents who represent you to show Christian publishers that these books are marketable. I hope the creative side of your brain has begun to brainstorm as you’ve read Claude’s post and this one. If you haven’t thought about writing for this generation before, there are obvious obstacles as well as opportunities to address. If you have an established audience, is it possible for you to incorporate topics of interest (retirement, health, purpose, the future) or main characters in your novel without threatening the loyalty of your current audience? Perhaps this could be a viable alternative to switching genres. If you’re as yet unpublished, you are in a position to seize this opportunity with a superb manuscript.

Yes, Boomers are aging. But they aren’t “old” the same way as in past generations. As a whole they’ve had to keep up with technology and culture to maintain competitiveness in their jobs and with their families. They’re savvy and they’ve grown in wisdom. The main differences are they’re entering retirement and they don’t have the physical ability they once had. These present situations specific to their generation and material for your nonfiction and novels.

What are your thoughts about addressing this huge audience? Do you see it as an opportunity for you? How do you think you can attract Boomers to your writing?

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68 Comments

  • Anne Love says:

    Oh, this is so great! I just thought of a great new character layer to add to my MS! I’m so excited. :) Off to make some edits! Already cruised Goodreads to jump on the group list. Eek! :)

  • I saw that article yesterday also, Mary. I have wondered before where all the stories are for the retired generation. It seems that we writers are always quick to choose characters who are young and vivacious and ready to tackle the world. Yet we maybe alienating a large population of readers. I’m glad to hear of a Boomer Lit genre, as long as you don’t have to be a Boomer to write it. :) My WIP’s main character is a Boomer who is struggling with his place in life. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm.

  • Lisa says:

    I read this one yesterday too. My WIP has a layer of this generation. I think I learned from my Grandfather, a story teller how much we can learn from the generations that have gone before us. I think you are right, this group is savvy. My Grandma watches the same television as I do and reads the same books.

  • When I outlined my WIP, my uber active mother strongly advised I keep the Boomer characters more hip, less broken hip; glad I listened. One thing a fabulous critique partner (and Boomer) cautioned was to avoid the “cute codger” syndrome. Just because a character’s age falls on the other side of 60 does not mean their witty dialogue mirrors the Golden Girls. Give them something insightful to say without pandering to the “aww, isn’t that adorable from someone your age” feeling. On the marketing front, is there a better sales demographic than the Boomer? Hmm…established financially, able to utilize social media, buys print AND electronic titles, Oh…and READS! :-)

  • This is a fascinating topic, one I hadn’t considered until today. One story I thought of while reading Claude’s post was The Notebook. It’s YA and Boomer Lit., which is brilliant. I’ll have to contemplate how I can make my writing more appealing to the Boomer generation. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Mary!

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Gabrielle, it certainly creates room for new story ideas, doesn’t it. But we don’t yet know how publishers will respond to this opportunity. The question is if and how authors can satisfy your current audience and attract the Boomer audience too.

  • Sarah Thomas says:

    Oh! I’m so excited about this. When I first started shopping The Memory of Drowning one editor suggested I point out in my proposal that it would appeal to the “sandwich generation” (those who are dealing with adult children still at home while in addition to aging parents). Sounds like she was ahead of the curve.

    And the MS I just sent to my agent features a character who is 45, unmarried, and laid off. She was originally a bit older, but my crit group wanted her to be 20-something. I couldn’t see that, so compromised by shaving off 10 years. Maybe I should add them back!

    • Thank you for “not seeing that”!! WHY do the vast majority of CBA female MC’s need to be 23?? Or if they’re old, 26?
      Nearly dead? 28.
      Go Sarah!

      • Larry says:

        Reminds me….

        “Dudebro, if the world gets to the point it requires a plucky group of traumatized teenage orphans to save it, I don’t think this planet is worth it.”

        —–Me, after watching yet another giant-robot show that some of the college kids I mentored said had “literary sensibilities.” [Eh, not that I can complain, I guess they disliked rock-operas with equal fervor. :) ]

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Hmm. Something to discuss with your agent, Sarah.

  • Such an exciting, untapped market! I’ve often heard folks say things like, “I may be 50, but I still think like 30.” Glad that this area is finally being explored.

    Thank you, Mary, for your insights!

  • I suppose my writing style is appropriate for the current trends and the new Boomer lit. I write historical fiction novels that go back and forth from the present day to the past.

    My current MS involves a young woman and her relationship with a much older woman, who is filled with wisdom from a life steered through tragedy, joy and her stronghold of faith in Christ.

    Today’s topic is interesting because my grandmother has recently taken up reading…well devouring Christian fiction is more like it. These are books with any age MC. She’s not picky. :) She hadn’t had time to read much before now. Unfortunately, she has been ill and that’s what started the reading marathon, but when she recovers I think she’ll still be reading and hopefully will slow down a bit to relax.

    I already have several books planned that will involve both younger and older adults and their encouragement to each other through sharing their struggles and their faith. There is much to learn from older generations–an important truth I hope to express in my novels.

    Thought provoking post, Mary! :)

    • oops!

      I didn’t mean to make the amateur mistake of saying “fiction novels.” I’d like to retract that. lol

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Morgan, do you envision the older adult having equal prominence with the younger character in your story? It could be a potential tipping point for attracting a Baby Boomer’s interest. Can you see both characters on the cover of the book? These are things to ponder.

  • Lori says:

    This doesn’t change anything in the novel I am developing. I am a baby boomer and my novel already includes people of my generation.

  • Last November, in Sucre, Bolivia, I crossed the street ahead of three backpackers. Each had some NICE gear on, fancy boots, they were fit and lean and powered down the sidewalk. Not scruffy at all and they were all grey haired and wrinkled. I mean, the lone woman HAD to have been 65 at the youngest. Clearly they were newbs though, because they wore bright, top of the line clothes.

    Rule #1?? “Blend in”.

    But they were doing what people their age 2 generations ago merely longed for. 65 is the new 40. Writers and the CBA need to realize that.

    Some Boomers want to re-live the young romantic years, and some want to read about people of a similar age having adventures and problems they can relate to.
    I don’t relate to a college graduate looking for her first apartment, or a young thing going off to college. But give me a story about starting over? Yup. I’ll devour it.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      “65 is the new 40.” I agree, Jennifer. Do you think a Boomer would choose a novel off the store shelf that pictures a character her age on the cover, doing something new and interesting? I think so.

  • FYI – When I click to tweet the last one, this is what I get:

    Mc Dimenor – Status De Ladrão – RachaFunk – 2012 – ○ http://youtu.be/FkO3LNELWPo ○ @McDimenorDr Segue: @RachaFunk

  • Larry says:

    I’d say it’s a good thing that the market might support more seasoned characters in fiction. Frankly, it can get dull when one searches for a good romance story and all one finds are books where the characters are idiots or reckless fools, and the entire story and themes revolve around the mistakes and drama of youths.

    Though I suppose there will still be the books which pander to the selfish desires and stubborness of the Boomer generation, just like any other fiction which primarily targets a particular age group, it’s nice that writers who want to write stories that involve seasoned characters, and the themes of those characters and stories involve, might have a market to do so.

  • This is a fabulous topic. I had a client who wrote mystery novels where the sleuths were two female baby boomers traveling the country in their RV.

    Claude definitely presents a compelling argument in the article, especially the fact that these people could have more time to read than those younger than them.

    Somehow, I didn’t realize I missed being from this generation only by four years. That means both my sisters are Boomers but I am Generation X. How does that impact family situations in fiction (and real life) where siblings are from different generations?

    One non-fiction topic that comes to mind is retirement. With people living longer and the economy being what it is, how about a book on how young Boomers can put together a financial plan that will allow them to retire in their 60s–which was once considered normal–instead of working into their 70s and 80s? I’ve read at least one book that looked at financial planning from a Christian perspective, but I’m not sure what’s out there for Boomers.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Cheryl, I like your brainstorming. Many books on financial planning stress starting when you’re young. But there is a population of Boomers who have experienced downsizing, health issues, boomerang children, and so on, which have depleted any well-laid plans they had.

  • One of my protagonists is a spry 91 year named Helen. She is quite active. Another is Katie, the church housekeeper who recently lost her husband. A trauma surgeon looking at a second career. This category is just what I’ve been looking for! Will join the group immediately!

  • Michelle Lim says:

    What amazing new information, Mary! Thanks for sharing this. I’ve always wondered about that, especially as all of the Baby Boomers in my life are avid readers. Something new to think about.

  • I forgot to mention this whole group joins the church pastor to solve mysteries. Perfect generation alignment!

  • Speaking as a Baby Boomer, age 58, I am glad to see that there may be a trend toward Christian fiction that caters to us. My first manuscript has main characters that are of the Baby Boomer generation as well as young adults. My current manuscript does the same. Prayerfully, I will find an agent who would be interested.

  • A boomer myself, I have many retiring boomer friends. The Christians express excitement about having more time to serve in ministry, particularly as mentors. They especially want to help the younger generations grow in their Christian faith. I think books that support boomers in their desire to find purpose as spiritual companions could do well.

  • I loved The King’s Speech!

    I struggle to find my 95-year-old mother-in-law books to read with her macular degeneration–she can’t operate an ereader but can read large print. She is an avid reader and she doesn’t really want to read most of what is in the CBA market today, either, and she doesn’t want to read the kind of stuff in the general market. But it is the same with those down to about age 50 with my friends.

    I’ve been noticing this as I try to find books for those who look to me for suggestions. And my peers tell me that they aren’t interested in the CBA fiction out there today–they want to read nonfiction ( and scooped up Lincoln and similar titles.)I also notice that so many are really interested in nostalgia. I’ve touched on this with blog interviews that I do.

    Anyway, this is really interesting to me and I, for one, will be thinking this over!

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Crystal, those are strong arguments supporting this potential Baby Boomer genre opportunity. I agree, it’s something to which we in the CBA need to give serious thought.

  • Thanks, Mary. Good to know there are more options out there amidst all the confusion of the current publishing industry.

    Considering that I feel like a youngster until I pass a mirror, I was quite surprised to see that I’m a Boomer myself. Yikes!

  • Melissa Risselada says:

    As a member of the baby boomers, I suggest that also we could write good books for grandparents to read their grandchildren. Many of us are now ‘with’ grandchildren. Since I am writing children’s books, I have some ideas on creating interest for boomers with their grands and the Christian theme would work very nicely with this.

  • David Todd says:

    I write the kind of books I like to read. As a 61-year-old Boomer of the Beatles wave (my own definitions), that must mean I think they would be of interest to other Boomers.

    My current novel-in-progress is about a Boomer couple who tour China in 1983 (when we did), smuggle in some Chinese Bibles (as we did), and become embroiled in a CIA operation (the fiction part). I published a short story about a Boomer woman CIA agent, in the current era. If I make it into a series like I hope, it will follow her clandestine career in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, maybe even into the 2000s.

    So I think maybe one way to tap this market is to have the stories with Boomer characters based in their earlier days. Nostalgia and all that. Now, if only the Boomers would start buying my book. Maybe they don’t like me because I subtitled a non-fiction book “How the Baby Boomers Are Screwing Up America”.

  • Leia Brown says:

    I wonder … if you took a pair of main characters who are in their 20s in Book #1 and drew their lives into a series books, where in the last book they are in their retirement years dealing with Boomer issues like finding hope and purpose as their health declines, would that keep an already-established, younger audience interested and also bring in new, older readers? I know I’m late commenting (crazy day here!) but I’d really love some of your opinions on that.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Leia, there is a risk to that theory. Boomers probably wouldn’t be interested in the series at book one. Using the indicators Claude gives in her post, they are looking for books or series that are focused on circumstances to which they specifically relate. By the time your characters reach Boomer age, your series probably wouldn’t be on their radar because, as is true for most readers, they probably wouldn’t choose to start with a book toward the end of a series. The unspoken message is that the characters are near the end of their life. That’s not what Baby Boomers seem to be about.

  • Linda Abels says:

    This post made my day. I returned last night from the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, where I discussed with several people my latest idea for a story. No one I spoke to had heard of a genre for Baby Boomers, but Karen Ball told me if I felt this strongly about writing the story I should definitely write it, and God will do what he will with it. This story has kept me up at night with new scenes and new dimensions to my characters. I feel a passion to write this story that exceeds any story I’ve written yet. The problem is all of my characters will be sixty-five or older, and the story includes a speculative piece. As I’m not yet published, and have no following, and I will be sixty- five in May, I’m thinking I should get busy writing the story. I already have a blog directed to an audience of women over sixty, A Novel Perspective from the mountain top.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      I’m thinking you should get busy writing too, Linda. Also continue to grow your audience through your blog, your author website, and social media networks you are comfortable with. And perhaps look into joining the Baby Boomer group on Goodreads too.

  • Hi Mary,

    Right now I’m sending a story through the ACFW critique group about a baby boomer romance.
    I’ve received more than one comment that it’d be hard to pitch. So I was ecstatic when I read your post.
    One trend I’ve noticed in my day job is lots of grandparents are raising their grandchildren. I’m not saying babysit, but they are truly raising the children.
    It’s almost like there’s a lost generation.
    Anyway, thanks so much for posting this.

  • Thank you for this timely post. The wonderful possibilities of “Baby Boomer Lit” have been on my mind for a while now. In fact, one of the POV characters in my current, nearly completed WIP, CAPTIVE NO MORE, is a baby boomer. I created this character out of a gut feeling that Baby Boomer Lit would eventually come into its own. Now I see that things seem to be trending that way. Praise the Lord! This is a large and virtually untapped market with amazing opportunities for uplifting Jesus Christ!

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn
    ______________________________
    MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA, MA
    Truth through Fiction ®
    http://www.maryanndiorio.com
    A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING
    Harbourlight Books 2012

  • This is so encouraging, Mary! As a Boomer myself, I can see exactly what I need to do to several WIP to make them more Boomer-friendly. When I joined the group on Goodreads just now, there were 306 members, many of whom are your readers and “commenters” above.

    • Mary Keeley Mary Keeley says:

      Julie, I’m glad this is encouraging news for you. To clarify, in her post Claude is making the case for books that aren’t simply more Boomer friendly, but that are specifically written to that audience, hence Baby Boomer Lit. That is a distinction authors need to keep in mind.

      • Mary, my books are about Baby Boomers but I see how I could add more “reminiscences” on their part that would appeal to Boomers–things like making more references to music we danced to, cars we loved, movie stars that stole the headlines like James Dean or Doris Day or Brigitte Bardot. My characters are Boomers that tend to live in the present, but I need to reach back into our collective memory more than I do. Am I on track here?

  • I love when God directs me. I read your post today and it was a confirmation. I have had a story rolling around in my head for a week. The M.C. is in her mid-fifties, her husband just passed away and she is now free from his domination. Two friends, also boomers, come along side to help her regain the self that she lost under the verbal abuse of her late husband. So many topics covered, invisible abuse, death and friendship.
    I’ve written several pages and believed there could be a market for this kind of book, thanks for the nudge to go ahead.
    By the way I am a 66 year old boomer caring for my 92 year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s. That will be another book.

  • I think there’s room for nonfiction writers to tap into this market, too. (I feel outnumbered by fiction authors)

    Boomers have led marketing trends for decades and will continue. With a little creativity, we can serve and do well in this genre.

  • Paul Rolek says:

    Retiring Baby Boomers need to develop a substitute community – one that substitutes our work colleagues. Consider getting another job, joining a health club or maybe get involved in a religious group We might want to consider volunteering at a local school or organization.”`,:

    Our personal blog page
    <http://www.healthmedicinejournal.com/

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