Jen Rofe and Jamie Weiss, 2 agents with the Andrew Brown Lit Agency (totally cool girls, btw), spoke at SCBWI about market trends. So here's a little info for those of you that aren't suffering SCBWI-info-burnout:
YA is the most flexible genre. It can be fun/sweet/clean, or dirty/raunchy. Your characters can be living, dead, or in between.
Editors look for a unique approach on common themes (i.e., striving for independence, exercising one’s own judgment/making decisions, mental/physical health, sex, family issues).
Things that are good:
-Wish fulfillment gone wrong
-High concept story = one that can be summed up in 1 sentence (“a hook”)
-stories with multiple hooks + literary and commercial appeal (multiple hooks = more than 1 interesting element to your story).
-YA romance (clean/steamy/historical fiction/paranormal)—yearning is always good
-Fairies are still being acquired.
-Mermaids, zombies, and dragons are good.
Paranormal is nearing its peak. If you're writing paranormal, you need different subject matter. Those that are being acquired have different and unique paranormal elements.
-What’s out/over: vampires and dead girls
-What’s coming out right now: zombies and werewolves.
-What's coming out next: Angels.
Nonfiction (here's to you, Mrs. J):
-Much more selective
-Narrative nonfiction is best
-Need nonfiction that is accessible and non-teachy.
-It can be a window into an event, instead of an entire story.
-Some houses want it and some don’t.
-It needs a curriculum tie-in and multiple hooks.
-Some houses are interested in historical fiction w/a fantasy bent
-HF can be a window into an event (like nonfiction), instead of an entire story.
-Questions to ask yourself:
a) Is there a reason your story is set in the past?
b) Is your story accessible and relatable to today’s teens?
To do: Get Children’s Bookshelf—free through Publishers Weekly
General trends in publishing:
-Slower turnaround time
-Revisions are required before an offer/acquisition
-Smaller advances—this can mean more royalties, which means publishers will love you.
-Smaller lists, which, in turn, delays publications and acquisitions
Tips for navigating the market:
-Read and study the genre. See how and why the books out work.
-Know your comparable titles. Know what you’re up against, and keep these houses in mind when your book is coming out.
-Join SCBWI/critique groups/etc.
-Immerse yourself in the market.
Querying Andrea Brown:
-If you're a member of SCBWI, add this to your query.
-Should be no longer than a page. Use a straight business-type letter, but make it feel personal.
->E.g. "I read that you like __. My YA is about __. My credits include __."
On subbing to publishers without an agent:
-Be careful about this—it narrows the list the an agent can send to, so the agent is less likely to take on your project.
- If you blind submit to a publisher, it’s very unlikely the publisher will read your work. (This is different if submitting after being allowed after a conference.)
Standalone books vs. a series =
-Houses prefer standalones in this climate, and then waiting to see how it goes.
-Think of your book as a standalone—think, “This book is it,” because you may not get a second book.
-The ideal book will be a crossover from YA to the adult market (e.g., Ellen Hopkins, Swoon, Mad Apple, Twilight, Maximum Ride, Harry Potter)
-Crossovers from adult to YA = e.g., Life of Pi, the Secret Life of Beens, the Lovely Bones
-“Family Reads” = new section in the bookstores with crossover titles.
Look at: AuthorsNow—for debut authors