(Just a note, this article was featured in our September 2020 Newsletter. To receive our articles first, you can subscribe to our newsletter here.)
Hello to all the PubRants readers sheltering at home. Hope this article finds you healthy, safe, and sane. Glad you are still with us and reading our monthly missive. It’s been a year in the making, but I’m very excited to share with you our brand-spanking new website that just launched this past week. Although September’s newsletter follows the old format, you can expect a newly redesigned newsletter to follow in a couple months, so stay tuned.
For eight months, I was closed to queries to cover two back-to-back maternity leaves for the NLA family. Congratulations, Samantha and Maria! At long last, I’m back in the query game, so it seemed apropos to talk about trends I’m seeing in my QueryManager inbox.
As always, don’t put too much weight on the trends I spotlight here. It doesn’t mean your project is dead in the water. It just means you need to be more creative in your query letter to make your story stand out. One interesting thing to note is that we’re fielding a lot of queries from authors who’ve had prior agent representation and are looking for a new partnership. Because of Covid, agents, like everyone else, are juggling a lot, and I wonder if some are paring down their client rosters.
Good luck out there! Persevere.
In the Adult realm:
- Historicals set in the time periods of the 1960s through the 1990s. Might writers be reminiscing on their pasts so as to escape our present crises?
- International thrillers with main characters that work at the CIA, FBI, etc. This is a specific thriller genre (espionage thrillers) and not something Joanna or I are looking for, but we still get a lot of inquiries.
- Lots of stories that use BIG LITTLE LIES as a comp.
- Jane Austen retellings are trending again. Humorous. Gender-swapped. From a different character’s perspective. That kind of thing.
- Old-school speculative fiction in the vein of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson—which isn’t quite where the SF&F market is right now.
- Angsty fiction in which the characters must “find themselves,” but that lacks a clear hook or concept to drive the story. This tends to be perennial.
- Short books—queries for novellas and novels under 70,000 words. For some reason this is popular, but 70K is pretty short for a full novel.
In the YA and Children’s realm:
- Steampunk submissions have really wound down over the last year.
- Pirates, pirates, pirates! Not sure what in the Zeitgeist is driving the trend, but it’s big in YA and MG (middle grade).
- Fantasy built around elemental powers or magic.
- Fantasy built around the guardians trope: characters who must protect a chosen one, a secret, a portal, a wall, a source of magic, etc.
- Fantasy built around court intrigue. Heads up: this market is saturated for editors. Some sales still occur, but they are far fewer than two years ago.
- Cool dragons with inventive premises are trending for both the YA and adult-fantasy realm.
- Middle-grade portal/time travel stories—probably because we need to escape our current world.