Pub Rants

Category: trends

Riding the Cultural Zeitgeist?

Status: I only own an umbrella for when I’m in New York. So ready for the perpetually sunny skies of Denver.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? MYSTERY by Anita Baker

Even though we agents and editors have seen this phenomenon repeat itself for years, it still strangely takes us by surprise.

Sometimes a theme or a type of story will hit the cultural zeitgeist and suddenly we will see a slew of submissions that have very similar story ideas.

And I’m not talking about obvious trends. For example, in Young Adult, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that paranormal romance has been “hot” for a while (thank you Twilight). Then the Hunger Games took off and dystopia became the new trend. As titles released in that, the latest is now SF or speculative fiction.

These are popular trends.

This is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about storylines that suddenly start popping up that are potentially outside of these trends but for some reason, the stories all hit our submission inboxes around the same time.

For example, over the last 6 months, there have been a lot of queries and sample pages for fairy tale retellings (and this started happening before Little Red Riding Hood and Beastly hit the screen).

I was out to lunch with a children’s editor yesterday and for him, he had suddenly started seeing a ton of submissions that were what he called “man vs machine a la Terminator-style.”

The submissions came from different agents/agencies and yet all had very similar settings and main storylines. And this isn’t actually a rare occurrence. As an agent, I’ve seen this happen any number of times in my career.

So, there is something percolating in the cultural zeitgeist where any number of totally different authors who don’t know each other will have eerily similar story ideas for their novels.

Riding the Cultural Zeitgeist?

Status: I only own an umbrella for when I’m in New York. So ready for the perpetually sunny skies of Denver.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? MYSTERY by Anita Baker


Even though we agents and editors have seen this phenomenon repeat itself for years, it still strangely takes us by surprise.


Sometimes a theme or a type of story will hit the cultural zeitgeist and suddenly we will see a slew of submissions that have very similar story ideas.


And I’m not talking about obvious trends. For example, in Young Adult, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that paranormal romance has been “hot” for a while (thank you Twilight). Then the Hunger Games took off and dystopia became the new trend. As titles released in that, the latest is now SF or speculative fiction.


These are popular trends.


This is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about storylines that suddenly start popping up that are potentially outside of these trends but for some reason, the stories all hit our submission inboxes around the same time.


For example, over the last 6 months, there have been a lot of queries and sample pages for fairy tale retellings (and this started happening before Little Red Riding Hood and Beastly hit the screen).

I was out to lunch with a children’s editor yesterday and for him, he had suddenly started seeing a ton of submissions that were what he called “man vs machine a la Terminator-style.”


The submissions came from different agents/agencies and yet all had very similar settings and main storylines. And this isn’t actually a rare occurrence. As an agent, I’ve seen this happen any number of times in my career.


So, there is something percolating in the cultural zeitgeist where any number of totally different authors who don’t know each other will have eerily similar story ideas for their novels.

The New Buzz Word: Speculative

Status: Dashing out to next meeting in 30 minutes and sheesh, it’s hotter than blazes in New York City today. I’m melting. It’s suppose to be a high of 99 tomorrow. I may stick an ice cube in my bra. That’s probably TMI.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? I’M MELTING IN THE SUN by INXS (I couldn’t resist putting this title on!)


It’s official. I’ve had three meetings with three different editors at three different children’s publishing houses.


The new hot thing is “speculative” fiction.


I guess we don’t want to call it science fiction, futuristic, and definitely not dystopian. LOL.


Speculative is SF though.


For some editors, they don’t want a huge science focus or an emphasis on technology (as is a bit more traditional in adult SF). They want it based more concretely in an Earth or contemporary society anchor.


One editor actually said screw that. Bring on the next Ender’s Game (and I say Heck Yes to that! I totally want to see that book).


Editors also want:

Horror—not gore but scary as in I Know What You did Last Summer

Psych Thriller

Jodi Picoult with hot topic but for the teen set

Literary but with a hook


Editors are seeing a lot of mysteries with a romantic elements. So far, that doesn’t feel overly appealing to them. Of course it only takes one to break that mold and then every editor will want one.


We know how that goes.


Another Children’s Editor Weighs In

STATUS: Is if Friday yet? Dang. Not yet…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATH AWAY by Berlin

On what she’s looking for. And I’m loving this list. I’d be happy to see queries from writers for anything she mentions. Bring it on.

1. Contemporary YA where the heroine is not a victim.

2. Witches, MG or YA, dark or light

3. SF YA

4. Multicultural SF or fantasy

5. Humor

6. Strong novels with gay protagonists

7. Steampunk

8. Novels with the perfect blend of literary and commercial that will get starred reviews, win awards, and land on the Times list.

Oh that’s not asking for much! I’m getting right on that last one. *grin *

And Since We Are Talking About The BEA YA Buzz Panel

STATUS: I’ve got a holiday party to attend tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SNOW by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye

Looking at the blog entry from June 2, 2010 was a nice reminder that I might want to check in on the titles editors spotlighted at the YA buzz panel at Book Expo and see how they are doing.

Here’s the original list for reference.

PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow—Fantasy

INFINITE DAYS by Rebecca Maizel—Vampire/Paranormal

MATCHED by Ally Condie—Dystopian

FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan—Dragon/Paranormal

THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger—Contemporary YA

Well, I can tell you right now that Matched is doing the best out of the gate. In fact, PW just had an article on what an auspicious debut it is. A quick look at Bookscan shows an excellent sales record for the first full week out.

Because of agreement with Bookscan, I can’t list actual numbers but let’s just say if a debut YA novel comes out of the gate over 3000 copies strong, it’s doing really well. And this title is definitely above that. It also hit the NYT list this week coming in at #5.

Crazy sales always confirm that a title was buzz worthy.

In a quick look at the other four titles, all of which were released in August and September of this year, they have, in general, what I would call normal-to-above-average sales out of the gate for young adult titles. FIRELIGHT and INFINITE DAYS having higher sales than the other two, and I think that attests to the paranormal genre holding strong in the young adult market.

From this Buzz panel, at least right now, it looks like Matched wins hands-down as the “break-out” book.

How Well Did Kristin Predict?

STATUS: I’m heading over to the Tattered Cover to do some holiday shopping. Yay!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CHRISTMAS CANON ROCK Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Oh, I think this might be a fun entry. In a press release from Scholastic, the editors created a list of the top trends from 2010 when it came to Children’s books.

And funny enough, in the Nelson Agency newsletter, I’ve been highlighting a lot of what was “hot” in children’s lit throughout the year. I wonder if my predictions in any way line up.

What do you say? Should we analyze it?

To start, here’s the Scholastic List:

1. The expanding Young Adult audience
2. The year of dystopian fiction
3. Mythology-based fantasy (Percy Jackson followed by series like The Kane Chronicles, Lost Heroes of Olympus and Goddess Girls)
4. Multimedia series (The 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek, The Search for WondLa)
5. A focus on popular characters – from all media
6. The shift to 25 to 30 percent fewer new picture books, with characters like Pinkalicious, Splat Cat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear showing up in Beginning Reader books
7. The return to humor
8. The rise of the diary and journal format (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, Dork Diaries, The Popularity Papers, and Big Nate)
9. Special-needs protagonists
10. Paranormal romance beyond vampires (Linger and Linger, Beautiful Creatures, Immortal, and Prophesy of the Sisters)

In looking at all the newsletters from the past 11 months, here’s what I highlighted was “hot” in our newsletter column:

1. February 2010 newsletter—Dystopian YA fiction as hot.
2. March 2010 newsletter—Paranormal YA US titles hot in translation
3. May 2010 newsletter—I mentioned that I’d be attending the BEA YA buzz panel. I didn’t highlight paranormal romance in the newsletter but I did discuss it on the blog, June 2, 2010 entry.
4. October 2010 newsletter—Dystopian YA mentioned again along with YA SF romance.

Not bad! I actually didn’t talk about children’s fantasy at all but I definitely agree that we have seen a lot of myth-based fantasy stories and just recently I blogged about seeing fairy tale inspired stories—which is kind of in that same vein.

A return to humor is news to me so very interesting. As for special-needs protagonists, I can’t say I’ve seen that many but what I have noticed is stories where the main narrator has a sibling with special needs. Tangential but maybe worth mentioning.

In the October newsletter, I also highlighted that editors would like to see the next John Green. That’s humor and the male voice. That’s not mentioned here but I do think that might trend.