Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trend alert: What's totally now, and what's SO last season...

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.

Historical fiction:
-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.

YA crossover
-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


Lisa and Laura said...

Thanks for the notes! I love hearing about what agents and editors feel are the upcoming trends. I keep hoping to see "girl detectives" on the list. Maybe next year.

Little Ms J said...

Thanks for my personalized notes! I feel very special.

jessjordan said...

Lila: I know, it's writer porn, isn't it? They didn't focus so much on what's coming up as they did on the basics of what makes a good sell right now--i.e., great, high-concept stories with amazing voice. I say girl detective stories are ALWAYS in. :)

LMJ: I thought about you as I was taking them down, so it only seemed appropriate that they be personalized!

Abby said...

Thanks for the info!

TereLiz said...

I'm with you on girl detectives always being "in"! Thanks again for another informative post!
I always learn so much when I come over here. ;)

jessjordan said...

Abby: You're very welcome!

Tere: I'm glad to assist in any way that I can, and thanks for coming by so often! :)

Weronika said...

Ooh, thanks! I can't wait until I get out to a conference like this and have something of my own to share. Merci beacoup!