Pub Rants

Category: general rants

(Just a note, this post is from our archives. Some references and links may be from past years.)

Just recently, PW published an article in which agents shared their thoughts on children’s books and YA trends. Although I’m quite tickled that so many agents are seeing lots of submissions featuring diverse characters, it’s dangerous to consider diversity the latest YA trend.

I’m sure I’m not the only agent who can say they’ve been repping diverse authors/books since day one. It certainly didn’t take a trend for me to sign those books and authors (for example, Kelly Parra’s awesome MTV Book Graffiti Girl in 2007, Kim Reid’s memoir No Place Safe in 2007, and Simone Elkeles’s Perfect Chemistry in 2008). But I can say this: unequivocally, before #WeNeedDiverseBooks became a rallying cry in April 2014, selling in a diverse author/book was tons harder to do. I have my submission logs to prove it. It often took me about 12 to 16 months of grim determination to find a diverse book a home.

If diversity is now hot enough to make the selling-in part a lot of easier, trust me, I’m all for it. Yay! Finally! But I absolutely do not want diversity to be considered a trend in young-adult literature, and here is why: If something is a trend, then it can go out of fashion just as quickly as it came in. And quite frankly, that would be a travesty.

The blunt truth is that selling a diverse book is a perfectly normal thing to do in publishing. So my rallying cry? Agents, new and old, even when diverse books become harder to sell, as they inevitably will (in publishing, trends of every kind have always come and gone), keep on keeping on.

Diversity is not a trend. It’s simply here to stay. This is the new normal.

Photo Credit: Ahmed Alkaisi

If you’re a writer on Twitter, you probably know that #MSWL is a popular hashtag. It’s how lots of agents and editors broadcast their submission wish lists.

I love it! But I can say with complete certainty that I’ll never post a #MSWL list. Why? Simply because I honestly don’t know what I’m looking for until I start reading it.

Case in point: When I read Stacey Lee’s UNDER A PAINTED SKY in manuscript form, never in a million years would I have posted to #MSWL that I was looking for a young-adult novel set in the American West, with two female protagonists—one Chinese, one African American—on the run and cross-dressing as boys to disguise themselves.

Yeah. I don’t think that would have come up.

But the minute I started reading, I knew I had to have that book. And thank goodness Putnam Children’s agreed with me.

So here’s the plain, honest truth: I have no idea what I’m looking for until the voice of a story grabs hold of me and doesn’t let go.

Just recently, I sold two science-fiction novels—DARE MIGHTY THINGS and THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS. Both, oddly, feature a competition at the heart of the story.

Ha! If you’d asked me whether competition stories were on my wish list, I probably would have said no. Popularity of The Hunger Games and all.

But once Emmett got a hold of me in THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, I was 100% in. And in DARE MIGHTY THINGS, once Cassie Dhatri convinced me that competing for the opportunity to be an astronaut was cooler than competing for a prince and a kingdom, my inner geek girl squealed with delight. I was in.

So keep that in mind when you ask an agent, “What are you looking for?” If they have a ready answer, take it with a grain of salt. Rarely do we find exactly what we are looking for.

As the Rolling Stones would say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios

Nelson Literary Agency Has No Prob With LGBTQ

STATUS: I’m feeling a tad riled up.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MY HEART BELONGS TO ME by Barbara Streisand

Holy cow! Can’t believe I missed this article yesterday. I’m so glad an agent friend forwarded to me. Take a moment to read it and tweet it on but in short, it’s an appeal to support literature with gay and lesbian characters and the fact that there are some appalling agents and editors out there who are making requests that the writers make a gay character straight.

Seriously? What year are we in?

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to see a link to a list of YA literature that features gay/lesbian characters and my author Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON series was on it.

This author of mine is brilliant. It’s a wonderful series and her new trilogy that I just sold to Random House also has an absolute kick-a** gay/lesbian main character. The first book UNSPOKEN publishes in fall 2012.

Not to mention, I have a Monica Trasandes’ debut adult literary novel coming out in spring 2012 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. It’s called BROKEN LIKE THIS and features three main protagonists: a bisexual character, a gay/lesbian character and a straight male character (had to throw that last one in there-LOL).

A multicultural author to boot. I’ll tell you right now it was a tough sell but I loved the novel and I sold it.

So add these to your wish lists if you want to show support via your buying dollars. If I had cover art or anything yet for these two titles, I’d post it here but we are in the middle of the cover design and the buy links aren’t available online yet.

And let’s not forget the incredibly brilliant, witty, impeccably dressed and extremely powerful Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate series.

I must admit it never occurred to me to add to my agency’s submission page that we are open to accepting material with LGBTQ characters because I kind of thought it went without saying but I’m rethinking it now.

Feel free to link to this blog post that it’s a-okay with us and I have NEVER asked an author to change a character’s ethnic background or orientation.

And because we are talking about multicultural too, check out my author Kimberly Reid’s debut YA novel MY OWN WORST FRENEMY. It’s an African-American urban Nancy Drew series. I mean, just how cool is that?


Note: LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning.

Additional Note: As there seems to be some question about the legitimacy of the original article cited and the agent/agency named, in fairness I’m also including a link to the agent/agency rebuttal to the accusation.

Fun Facts On NLA Clients—Take 2

STATUS: Hey, winter decided to show up, briefly, in Denver today. It snowed. I already miss out near 60 degree weather already.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GIVE PEACE A CHANCE by John Lennon

The Gals of Killer Fiction (all former Dorchester authors) are giving away free eBooks because finally, it’s their books to give away. Two of my authors, Jana DeLeon and Leslie Thompson are participating. Nothing wrong with the word “free” in this case so you might want to check it out.

And that leads me to back to some more fun facts to share.

Lucienne Diver—was already publishing under a pseudonym when I convinced her to do the Vamped Series in her own name.

Carolyn Jewel—has never missed a deadline (which has me convinced that she has mastered the art of cloning)

Leslie Langtry—was skeptical of literary agents and gave me the most detailed questions I’ve ever received when offering representation. And if you know Leslie, who is probably the author most likely to buy you a beer and hug you, you’d realize just how strange that is!

Marie Lu—was an attendee I met at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. She submitted sample pages to her first novel which I passed on (sensing a theme here!). Then I took her on for a novel that I wasn’t able to sell. Now her debut YA, LEGEND, is one of Penguin’s big books for this fall. Talk about paying some dues.

Time for bed but more tidbits tomorrow!

Fun Facts On NLA Clients

STATUS: Ack! Can’t believe it’s 5 already. Where did the day go?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALLING ALL ANGELS by Train

Once an author is established, it’s kind of hard to think of them as having a beginning but every successful author has a fun fact about their beginning. I thought it might be fun to share today.

Gail Carriger—Four years before she sent me SOULLESS, I had read a YA novel from her, passed on the manuscript but sent along a letter with feedback. She remembered that fondly and so queried me with SOULLESS.

Ally Carter—I signed Ally for a novel (adult) that we’ve never shopped.

Sara Creasy—(who by the way was just nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award—HUGE!!!) I made her revise SONG OF SCARABAEUS twice before I signed her and then went on to sell it.

Jana DeLeon—For her first book, RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU, had an editor who so wanted to buy her. Got shot down at her house. It sold elsewhere but just recently, this editor asked for every book she’s written since so she would have them on her vaca. Oh yes, we [email protected]

Simone Elkeles—had only one offer to buy PERFECT CHEMISTRY. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to sell it!

Jamie Ford—When he first submitted HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, he had the manuscript entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL. Sounds like it’s set in Latin American. We went through about 100 titles before settling on the one it was published with before submitting it to editors. Now people can’t imagine any other title for it. One bad suggestion was Burning Silk—after the one scene where Japanese women start burning their wedding Kimonos after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Janice Hardy—Sold me on her manuscript during the 10-minute pitch session at the Surrey Writers Conference. Right after the pitch appt. I called my assistant (Sara at the time) and asked her to send it to me the minute it came in. She did. I read it and immediately offered rep for it. It’s rare to take on a novel from a pitch session but it happens.

More to come tomorrow!

More Train music on iLike

Where Not In The World Is Kristin?

STATUS: I know this is petty but this week I’m on the beach and it snowed in Denver. Yes!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WALKING ON SUNSHINE by Katrina And The Waves

There is something fundamentally wrong with a science fiction author who lives in Florida but has never been the Kennedy Space Center. It’s also a crying shame if her agent, who reps SF and has also never been to the Kennedy Space Center, doesn’t drag her there.

Consider the issue rectified!

In Orbit! Kristin, My Mom Sue, and Linnea Sinclair:

The world is in trouble now…

Publishing Is Where The Boys Are Not

STATUS: Off to the Rockies game tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LIVIN’ THING by Electric Light Orchestra

Hey, nothing like ending a week on a controversial note. Really, I shouldn’t open this can of worms but heck, it’s a beautiful fall day. Why not throw a monkey wrench into it.

So in a spare five minutes I had waiting for something to download, I popped open my latest issue of PW and there was an interesting article on the lack of men in publishing and whether that impacts what gets published.

Jason Pinter did an editorial at the HuffPo saying it does.

Stuart Applebaum at Random House says it’s not keeping him up a night.

For my part, I just want to sniff. Sorry. There are SO many male-dominated industries and yet I never hear much discussion about whether the lack of women in those professions significantly impacts those industries so yeah, I’m inclined to just snort.

(Interesting side note, Alloy Entertainment, the folks behind all the Girl commercial teen products like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Gossip Girls etc. is run by 2 guys and no one seems to think twice about it….)

Then I wondered if I was being automatically dismissive and there is something to an industry being impacted by a gender leaning in one direction.

I imagine some of you might have decided opinions on this topic so air away.

The Power Of Story—In Any Medium

STATUS: I have a lot on my plate today. If I don’t blog now, it won’t happen.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LITTLE GREEN APPLES by O.C. Smith

Since my father passed away in January, I’ve long wanted to write this blog entry but didn’t feel up to it. I’m going to give it try today.

My love of reading definitely came from my parents—both avid readers. But my father was passionate about books. He was the one who took me and my older brother and sister to the library every Sunday (almost without fail).

In fact, it was my Dad who created my love of science fiction and fantasy. His SFF books littered our house and pretty much covered every shelf.

Our first conversation about “appropriate reading for ten year olds” happened over an SF book actually (Slave Girl of Gor anyone?) It was the only time he ever censored reading and gave up after 6 months when my brother and I ferreted them all out anyway and read them. Just thinking about that memory after all these years makes me laugh.

The hardest thing was getting Dad to read contemporary SF&F. Man, pulling teeth to get him to try a new author. The trick was not to suggest but to just give him the books. Years ago, I did that for Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series, I never got my books back. I was in grad school at the time (when every dollar counts) and I had to go out and re-buy the books for my own shelves. I didn’t let him live that down for years. Last year, I gave him Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR and he was hooked. Another personal triumphant!

And yes, I’m going somewhere with all this. Well, my father had cancer that had migrated to the brain. He was blind for the last six months of his life. I knew he wouldn’t survive without story so I talked him into listening to audio books—a medium he had never tried before. I even got him to try a new author.

When my father was rushed to the hospital right after Christmas (literally, the day after), he had only one request for me, bring him his green iPod shuffle with his latest story.

The man was dying but darn if he was going to go without getting to the end of his audio book—which, by the way, was Brent Weeks’ THE WAY OF SHADOWS.

His last days were at home surrounded by his family and all his books (literally we had the hospice bed set up in the living room). Sadly, he didn’t get a chance to finish the story but not from lack of trying.

And that, folks, is the power of story in any medium.

Taking Some Time Off

STATUS: For the last three days, it’s literally been Dorchester 24/7.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CAT’S IN THE CRADLE by Harry Chapin

I have to ‘fess up. Yesterday, we here at NLA skipped out early to take in a Rockies game at Coors field last night.

So here’s the gang doing anything but reading submissions. Don’t worry, we got back on the ball today.


From left: Anita’s friend Alex, Anita, Me, Sara


How cotton candy is meant to be enjoyed!


The Megibow fam!


From left: My hubby, Sara’s hubby, and their son clearly demonstrates the other way to enjoy the game!