Pub Rants

Creep Factor Anyone?

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STATUS: Back at my hotel early enough to blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO MUCH TO SAY by Dave Matthews Band

Sorry for the radio silence yesterday. I flew in to New York on Sunday and it’s been a whirlwind of meetings.

I have to say that the mood is a little somber in publishing. I heard a rumor of some layoffs at Random House which did indeed happen. I think people in general are nervous about the economy and that’s no less true in publishing.

However, there’s still lots to get excited about. I had lunch today with two editors from Little, Brown Children’s and even though we did spend a good portion of the lunch lamenting the loss of MY SO CALLED LIFE (Gosh, I loved that show and I’m so glad I’m not the only geek missing it…), we did spend some time talking about what we’d love to see.

Both editors are convinced that werewolves might be the new vampires (and that Zombies are almost over). Never thought I’d put those things in a sentence together! And although paranormal, vampires, and werewolves have been hot in the adult market, the children’s field hasn’t really caught up and there might be lots of room for that. I can see it.

We all agreed that we’d love a story that could creep us out. Horror hasn’t been hot in children’s for a long time and the timing just might be right for that. This summer I looked at a YA horror that I really, really wanted to work but the writing/story just wasn’t quite there yet.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. I just sold a steampunkish fantasy in the adult world earlier in the year (SOULLESS) and these children’s editors could really see a steampunk YA working… (yeah, you probably saw that recent Scott Westerfeld deal too…)

I was at a couple of other children’s publishers yesterday and let me tell you, all the editors eagerly asked if I had anything for middle grade right now (which, sadly, I don’t). Lots and lots of room in the MG world.

In the adult world at Little, Brown, one editor mentioned that she would really love to see a big woman-written and women-oriented thriller. A literary thriller wouldn’t go amiss either.

I’m sensing a theme….

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45 Responses

  1. Amy C. said:

    I was just thinking about that show today. Why? WHY was it cancelled?
    FYI–you can get it through Netflix…

  2. The Writers Canvas said:

    Great info in your post, Kristin! And yes, I absolutely LOVED “My So Called Life” and have the DVD set. So much soul in those episodes which meshed well with the acting talents.

    Keep on blogging!


  3. Just_Me said:

    Exploit the YA/MG market, stake the vampires, see if you can catch a werewolf under the next full moon, women are good, and go ahead and scare somebody?

    Well, I have werewolves, and I have something that could get marketed as YA. But they aren’t the same book. And neither is ready to query just now. Any predictions on what they’ll be begging for next fall?

  4. AstonWest said:

    A glutton for punishment, eh? I foresee a massive deluge in your submissions inbox coming…

    Someday, perhaps space opera will make a comeback. 🙂

  5. Starstruck said:

    How strange! My NaNoWriMo is a werewolf YA. I think. I never can tell if my themes are more mature than the characters.

  6. Theo Lynne said:

    So I’m currently procrastinating on my WIP right now by reading the blogs that I follow and this was just what I needed.

    The aforementioned WIP is a YA Steampunkish Fantasy- actually a series of them. Although I knew that steampunk was gaining popularity this was really nice to read!

    to Jeanie W:
    Steampunk is a sff sub-culture that typical revolves around Victorian England and was first ‘coined’ in the 80’s. The fathers of steampunk are considered to be HG Wells and Jules Vern though. Basically it’s alternative history where steam-powered technology has flourished. Think airships, crazy inventors, and gollums. Or movies like League of Extraordinary Men or Wild Wild West.
    (if your question was on how the steampunk*ish* and fantasy combine, I’m sorry to have been so long winded. I know in my world there are the typical trappings of steampunk with the addition of magic-users)

  7. Vacuum Queen said:

    I have to say, that as a mom and teacher…I’m dying to see some YA books that are NOT fantasy or thrillers. I’ve got many many many 5th graders who read at a 9th grade level and do NOT love fantasy and are not ready to read high school material. They need CLEAN and complex stories, but are not mentally ready for thrillers, nor are they all interested in sci-fi and fantasy. I have students begging for more “Henry Huggins turned teenager” or sports series beyond Matt Christopher. Or mysteries that make them think, not kiss girls or cheat in school or mention drugs. You get the idea. CLEAN but challenging and fun. 250 pages. Preferably a series. (oh…and throw in some humor) It’s a constant search for that at library time. Just my piece…

  8. Kathleen Dante said:

    jeanie w said…
    Please forgive my ignorance, but what is steampunkish fantasy?

    A fantasy set in a world with Victorian era technology–think steam engines and airships and gaslight. Something along the lines of Martha Wells’ Ile-Rien in her The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy or Caroline Stevermer’s A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics duology.

    If you’re familiar with anime, think Steamboy or Sakura Wars. The setting tends to be romanticized and technology idealized (and mechanical or chemical in basis); at least that’s the steampunk I’m familiar with. I’m sure Kristin will correct me if I’m wrong. =)

  9. Justus M. Bowman said:

    My wife and I had joked that we should write a book about a girl falling in love with a werewolf. Obviously, the name would be “Dusk” in honor of creativity.

    Even though your post suggests that werewolf love might become a marketable theme soon, I’m not interested. Hmm…makes me wonder about my motivation.

  10. Anonymous said:

    These are the posts I look forward to.
    Thank you, Kristin, for the fly-on-the-wall peek into your business meetings.
    Thank you to the librarian “vacuum queen” who spoke up for advanced readers not into dark reads, which I also found informative.
    I normally don’t read the comments, and don’t comment myself – too much time away from my own writing.
    Did want to let Kristin know, however, that I love hearing about her conversations with editors.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Why does no one ever state the truth in publishing? You can THINK you want X as an editor, but really, no one knows what they want until they see it (read it).

    It’s like a woman pontificating on wanting a tall, dark and handsome man, and then wow… that lanky blond with curly hair makes them laugh and bingo… that’s what they want.

    This is why people are so obsessed — for no reason — with trends; trying to please editors. Enough already.

    Here’s what I want: An editor that is open to a ms because it’s good not because it fufills some wish-list fantasy.

  12. AC said:

    It must just be me, but I seriously can’t get into vampires, werewolves, etc etc etc and it seems like that’s all that’s out there right now…don’t hurl rocks at me, pretty please 🙂

    But thriller/horror, that could be interesting. I guess maybe the last time it was popular in YA was the R.L. Stine era. Anybody remember Fear Street?? Man, that was good stuff when I was about 12.

  13. Kimber An said:

    Well, I’ve got a steampunkish YA Historical and a Middle Grade, but I can’t decide which to polish up for submission to save my life. It doesn’t make it any easier to know my already slim chances have been reduced to practically zero by this ailing economy. Slugging through the incredible amount of work historicals require knowing the odds is absolute heck.

    Yes, I’m rather cranky this week. What tipped you off?

  14. C.D. Reimer said:

    Because a couple of editors are thinking werewolves, does that mean the trend is already over before it got started?

    Seems like everyone and their vampire-bitten dog has been writing paranormal romances that flooded the market with every possible variation (on the adult side). I wouldn’t mind seeing something new out there that doesn’t have “paranormal” and/or “romance” as part of the genre.

  15. martha said:

    I’m sorry – every third person in my writers group is featuring werewolves and or vampires. I’m so sick of it. There are one or two who are using this sub-genre to explore the intra-personal challenges facing vampires and werewolves, but most are just using the form to express their taste for gore and violence. V&W for YA’s is going to require much better writing than I’ve been seeing

  16. Crimogenic said:


    What does “big woman-written” and “women-oriented thriller” mean? I’m guessing a thriller with a woman at the lead?

    Thanks for the insight into what editors are looking for.

  17. Jean said:

    I’m going to start eating everything in sight and turn my stories into thrillers…

    Kidding. Sorta.

    Thanks for the heads up on what’s ‘hot’ at the moment.

  18. December/Stacia said:

    Caitlin Kittredge just sold a YA steampunk trilogy to Delacorte in a major deal, about a month ago. The first book is called THE WITCH’S ALPHABET and the trilogy is called THE IRON CODEX.

    So, not just Westerfeld. 🙂

  19. Zoe Winters said:

    I LOVED “My So Called Life”

    And werewolves being the next vampires, sounds about right.

    If Blood and Chocolate was just now coming out, can you imagine how much money Annette Curtis Klause would make?

    That book was amazing, and I hated how they butchered the movie.

  20. Ryan Field said:

    Three months ago an editor told me something in a ms was “creepy.” I didn’t think so, but I changed it without thinking twice because I like her. Next time that happens I may try to defend the creepy thing. I feel empowered now 🙂

  21. Dal Jeanis said:

    For the field of steampunk, don’t forget H. Rider Haggard, who belongs in the “invented it” with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

    The movie “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” included protagonists from several seminal steampunk works. (Pardon the alliteration.)

    Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series might be considered a recent descendant of the breed.

    If you want a totally fun graphic version of steampunk, go to Girl Genius online. Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!

  22. Julie Wright said:

    Loved this information. ANd though eerything is a little precarious right now, the economy will turn around. I hope those layoffs ended up in better opportunities for those employees affected.

  23. Theo Lynne said:


    I love Annette Curtis Klause and I’m right there with you on hating what the movie has done to B&C. Personally, I liked The Silver Kiss better but you’re right, if she was publishing now it would be perfect.

    Mmm… maybe I’ll go read those books again!

  24. kim baker said:

    I just don’t think werewolves have the same potential to appeal to the masses. There’s nothing sexy about paws and snouts.

    But, I am happy that there’s a call for MG out there.

  25. Beth Mattson said:

    “Both editors are convinced that werewolves might be the new vampires (and that Zombies are almost over).”


    NO WAY!!! Werewolves are great, and Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison are amazing, but not only are vampires not to be disappeared under the wolves, but zombies are not over! GASP! I am offended! I think they have hardly begun! They are what I want to read and write! Ughn! Say it isn’t so!!!

  26. Anonymous said:

    I’m astonished to learn that editors are actually WANTING stories about werewolves. I would have thought these were already “done to death”, just like vampires, and that they would definitely be on the list of editorial hates, along with dragons and unicorns.

  27. Linda Aksomitis said:

    Great discussion – some of us are trying to reach those good readers looking for something beyond fantasy, vampires, and such… Vacuum Queen, have your readers tried historical fiction or time travel fantasy? There can be many twists and turns in both. I’ve got a new outlaw series – free teacher’s guide and more teacher and young reader materials coming!

  28. Anonymous said:

    Great information! I heard this on publisher’s marketplace.

    I have been querying my YA Fantasy that includes werewolves, goblins, wizards, and even “Dark Angels”.

    I have a great query, but can never get much of a nibble…

    I hope this news from the editors will make agents more open to reading material like mine.

  29. lunartalks said:

    Werewolves? Gah. There are far more imaginative ways of of evoking creepiness than people going hairy and toothy. Are they really that unimaginitive?

  30. ALC said:

    Oh my goodness!!!!!

    Exactly how do I query you?

    My MG novel may be right up your alley. Honestly! Truly!

    Would you at least be interested in reading a query about my novel?

    I’m sorry if this is stepping over a line. I just got really excited when I read this post.


  31. ALC said:

    After getting over my initial thrill at reading this post, I did look at your agency website & querying guidelines.

    Thank you, again, for this post!