Pub Rants

What Editors Bought or Wanted To Buy Recently

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STATUS: I think I’ve officially beaten the “What Editors Want” horse to death now!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU AND ME AND THE BOTTLE MAKES THREE by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asking editors what they have bought lately or what they had been the underbidder for in an auction. Here’s what a couple of editors had to say.

These folks were from a variety of houses such as HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster, Random house, Macmillan group etc.

You’ll notice the reference to well known projects. Editors use it too. It’s a quick way of summing up a project for someone who hasn’t read it. And I know a lot of my blog readers will say that editors don’t want to buy anything new or original (and that’s certainly true in some respects) but all I’m trying to point out here is how important and effective a tool it can be to know where your book fits in the market.

On the Adult Side
1. A memoir the editor described as 3 Cups of Tea meets Into Thin Air
2. A collection of essays about motherhood
3. A Friday Night Knitting Club type book for the women’s fiction market
4. A thriller with a dark and damaged heroine
5. A thriller with a nasty vampire FBI agent as hero (and this was not to an SF&F house)
6. Women’s fiction about a group of women attending a cooking school
7. Historical novel set in Russia and featuring a Ballerina
8. A literary novel that is atmospheric and interior
9. A literary satire on a main character who becomes a famous novelist
10. A crime caper that’s sharp and funny
11. A commercial novel about the retelling of Dracula from Mina Harker’s POV
12 A commercial novel by a Nigerian author where the main character who has many wives and many children but when his newest wife can’t get pregnant, it calls into question his whole family life.
13. A women’s fic novel where the main protagonist doesn’t realize she is in a coma and reexamines her life.

On The Children’s Side
1. A story with the Fae but from the boy’s POV
2. a middle grade novel set in Afghanistan and San Francisco—kind of like Kite Runner for kids—serious themes but without the adult content
3. A YA done in free verse where the narrator has to save her older sister
4. A YA horror novel
5. An alternate history/steampunk type YA set in London after WWII
6. a YA where a college drop-out crosses a necromancer.
7. A literary YA with a Southern setting from an adult author who is lauded for her literary adult fiction.
8. A telling of the Anastasia story but with a contemporary spin
9. A historical YA with a supernatural twist
10. A biography of Charles Darwin told via letters Charles wrote to his love Emma

[And I forgot to mention this when I originally posted but if you want the real skinny on what editors are buying, sign up for the Deal Lunch daily email via Publishers Lunch. Deals included usually have a short description of the novel sold as well as who sold the project and who bought the project. In three months, you’ll have a good idea on what is selling.]

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23 Responses

  1. bilmin said:

    Why do these lists resemble the lists of “stories we’ve seen a thousand times”? A thriller with a dark and damaged heroine, how innovative! A retelling of an out-of-copyright classic by a secondary character? NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE.

    I’m sorry, something about this list just provokes me to bile. I don’t think there’s an item here for which I can’t pull out a title that’s already published (except the Nigerian one, maybe the Darwin). Maybe it’s in the descriptions; maybe I’d like the sharp and funny crime caper if you mentioned any details. Maybe these are just the kind of things people are writing and it’s a question of volume. But why is this stuff all so familiar? Why are the twists that make these different so small?

    I feel better. Just had to have a pub rant of my own, I guess.

  2. Anonymous said:

    “… 3. A YA done in free verse where the narrator has to save her older sister…”

    You mean Ellen Hopkins has abandoned drug verse books for a new topic? Sorry, that’s the first thing I thought.

    Okay, done now. 🙂 I sort of agree with bilmin, but that’s the kind of mood I’m in without coffee yet this morning.

  3. ryan field said:

    “A literary satire on a main character who becomes a famous novelist.”

    Maybe this sounds interesting to me because I’m a writer, but I’m happy to see it on the list. I’ve seen so many advice posts on various blogs that advise writers not to write fiction about becoming a famous novelist that I’d probably never have the guts to do it myself. But I’m damn glad someone else did.

    The knitting book is interesting too. I’m seeing it all over lately.

  4. Dave F. said:

    I just gave my 14 year old Nephew “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by Jeff Guinn and did a little sales job about how B&C were really awful, stupid, clumsy criminals and he loves it.

    So the lists don’t seem so strange, considering.

  5. DebraLSchubert said:

    Kristen, Thanks so much for this post! I think it’s refreshing to know that women’s fiction is still selling, as are mysteries and thrillers (since I write in two of those genres!). I really appreciate your keeping us abreast of what’s going on “out there”!!

  6. Laura said:

    I had a question about #6 on the children’s side. I didn’t know that protagonists that were in college (or in this case dropped out of it) were considered YA. Is a protagonist too old for YA once s/he gets out of the high school range? Or is this a misconception and anything goes?

    Sorry, random questions. 🙂 Thanks for answering.

  7. Dara said:

    7. Historical novel set in Russia and featuring a Ballerina.

    That’s a little on the random side…:P I guess I can’t place what book(s) out there have this (if any).

    I liked the YA list better, especially #9. I’m working on something similar only it’s not a YA.

    Anyway thanks for posting this–it’s interesting to see what editors are looking for, even if it’s nothing I’m writing. It makes me want to work harder at making my book stand out 🙂

  8. Anna Claire said:

    Yikes! #8 in the adult side and #7 on the children’s side sounds exactly like the book I’m just about to start writing. I need to get my booty in gear and write this thing!

  9. Genre Reviews said:

    Every time I see lists like this, I get a bit depressed because none of them sound interesting to me. But when the time comes to grab another book to read, I somehow always find a novel that looks interesting.

    Perhaps the problem here is that most of these descriptions say little about what makes the novel unique but instead focus on the clichés/categories they fit in..i.e. what books they’re like.

  10. Anonymous said:

    With the specificity of some of these ideas, I get the feeling that what these editors really want is to write books.

  11. Carradee said:

    5. A thriller with a nasty vampire FBI agent as hero (and this was not to an SF&F house)

    Particularly interests me, though admittedly 4 and 12 also caught my attention. *wonders how she’d track down this #5 when it reaches publication*

  12. Anonymous said:

    I agree with bilmin. This is very vague. “A YA horror novel” or “essays about motherhood” tell us absolutely nothing. The Nigerian one at least had some details.

    Not helpful. At all.

  13. Anonymous said:

    People, may I suggest you not read the blog if you think some post is unhelpful? Why would you want to spend the time to comment here?

    Thank you, Kristin, for taking the time to write up this info. I believe most of your readers appreciate it. I do.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Kristen, I love your blog – been reading it for years! And boy I never expected to see me in it…yet anyway! I wrote children’s #2 – a MG Kite Runner. I didn’t know there was buzz about it, though it was acquired after multiple editor bids. Thanks again for sharing you valuable insights about the industry.

    N.H. Senzai

  15. aimeestates said:

    “A literary satire on a main character who becomes a famous novelist”

    I should try that. I have the dream/nightmare three times a week.

  16. Karen Duvall said:

    Great list, Kristin! I think most all of these, from both the adult and children’s side, sound wonderful. It offers an overall feel for what’s deemed marketable right now, particularly in women’s fiction. I notice a lack of romance on the adult side. Very interesting since it sells the best. I guess no one needs to look for it because romance submissions are a constant.

    Neither of the two adult projects my agent is submitting right now are anything like what’s on the list. Well, my alternate history steampunk is, but it’s adult and set in New York City, so it doesn’t count.