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June 2018
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Is "Crossover" the Right Descriptor for Your Novel?

Kristin Nelson

In the query inbox, we definitely see the term “crossover” a lot. But to borrow a phrase from The Princess Bride, “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 

We most often see it used by writers who want to highlight that their manuscript is written for the YA market but could potentially “cross over” to the adult market. In general, that won’t help you much, since agents are not really looking for projects with that specific criteria in mind. When writing YA, the most important thing is that it will appeal to the YA reader. Likewise, if you’re writing for the adult market, then your work should appeal to adults. If your YA happens to reach an adult market, too, great! But that is not an expectation or even a selling point. Rowling wrote Harry Potter for children. The fact that adults were equally enthralled is, in the end, secondary. When agents pitch to editors, we pitch in terms of intended audience, but we never use “crossover” in this context—mainly because no one truly ever knows what will transcend the children’s market and reach adult readers as well.

In publishing, “crossover” is generally used to describe a genre book that’s written in a more literary or upmarket style, and, therefore, has the potential to transcend genre tropes and reach a more mainstream audience—that is, readers who don’t typically read genre fiction. We pitch these types of books to non-genre or more commercial mainstream imprints.

A good example of a crossover novel is Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, which is a dystopian SF, but which wasn’t published by an SF imprint, packaged with an SF cover, or placed on the SF shelf. It was, instead, positioned for a mainstream audience. Another example is Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Cronin was already established in the literary world before he took on writing a commercial novel that had one foot planted squarely in the zombie genre. Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven is another fantastic crossover novel, as is Hugh Howey’s Wool. Many Howey fans still write to say, “Normally I would never read science fiction, but I couldn’t put this book down.”

So when I say in our submission guidelines that I’m looking for “big crossover novels with one foot squarely in genre,” I mean that I’m looking for the next Atwood, Cronin, Mandel, or Howey. I’m looking for big, cerebral, genre-based novels that are beautifully written, and that will probably be initially published in hardcover, for the adult market, by a mainstream imprint.

Occasionally, I’ll see a project that could work equally well in YA or adult (with a bit of revision geared one way or the other). Scott Reintgen’s Nyxia is a perfect example. It walked the line between YA SF and adult SF, but I didn’t pitch it as “crossover.” I simply submitted it to both YA houses and adult SF houses and let them decide. It was fascinating to have both a YA house and an adult house in the auction, because the author eventually had to choose. Scott decided he was truly a YA author who writes SF, not an SF author who writes books that might also appeal to YA readers.

On a final note, “crossover” is also not the same thing as “cross-genre,” so if you’re writing a book you hope will appeal to readers of more than one particular genre, be sure you’re describing it as such!

Recent News
Think Like an Agent

OOP: The Out-of-Print Clause

By Joanna MacKenzie

I’ve spent a lot of time with contracts in the last few weeks, so I wanted to share with you something that’s fresh in my mind: out-of-print language. The out-of-print, or OOP, clause is in every publishing contract and deals with the dreaded question, What happens when my book stops selling?  

Why the OOP Clause Matters. Ideally, we want each publishing relationship to be fruitful for everyone. We want the book to stay in print forever and sell lots of copies, and for the author and publisher to never part ways. But sometimes a book doesn’t launch as planned, or it doesn’t hit the market as planned. Or maybe it does sell well for a long time, but now sales have slowed to a trickle and it’s not longer cost effective for the publisher to keep the book in print. The OOP clause spells out exactly how and under which conditions the rights to the book will revert to the author.

Timeline. When the publisher will allow the author to request a reversion of rights? This can be anywhere from one year following initial publication of the work to as many as five years. The longer that timeframe, the longer your rights will be tied up with a publisher. That’s all well and good if the book is selling well, but it becomes a problem if the book is not performing and you have to wait years before you can even ask for your rights back. Notice also the mention of “initial publication.” A firm timeframe only works if you have a firm starting point. Make sure you know when the clock starts ticking.

What Constitutes Out-of-Print. Since publishers can be granted the right to publish a work in many formats—print, ebook, audio, translation—it is important to specify in the contract which edition needs to be underperforming in order for a book to be considered out of print. Most often, for clarity, the OOP clause will refer to the full-length English-language edition. Let’s say your book isn’t doing well in the US, but the German edition is going gangbusters. Being big in Germany won’t preclude you from getting your rights back to the version of the work that isn’t selling.

Threshold. The out-of-print language will include a threshold: the number of copies sold or, in some contracts, the author’s earnings over a specific period of time. When a book’s sales fall below the specified threshold, then (depending on what the rest of the OOP clause says) both the author and publisher may agree that the book is out of print, and the official reversion process can begin. The threshold will apply only to whichever editions are specified in the OOP clause—for example, sales of all print editions and physical audio editions may be tallied, but sales of the ebook and downloadable audio edition may not. Sales will be counted over a certain amount of accounting periods. A typical threshold is between 200 and 300 copies sold over two consecutive six-month accounting periods.

What You Can Do. Be aware that out-of-print language is often heavily negotiated in each contract. Understand the conditions that must be met before your book will be deemed “out of print” and the processes you must follow to get your rights back. Know, too, that you can also request that the publisher put your title back in print, which they may or may not do. And know the timeframes set forth in all areas of your contract.

Kristin's Book Club

How Do You Define Poetry?

It’s rare that our book club holds such opposing viewpoints, but man does it make for a meaty discussion when it does happen! In May, we met to discuss Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. One member of our group absolutely loved this book of poetry. She savored every word. Even wrote up little cards with quotes to put around her apartment so she could be reminded on a daily basis. 

Another member, on the other hand, thought the work was more inspirational sayings than poetry. It was her opinion that although the themes Kaur was tackling (rape, women’s self-identity) were definitely important, the sophistication was lacking when compared to Maya Angelou and other modern women poets. 

This led us into a very fascinating discussion about what constitutes poetry. How is it defined? Is it all in the eyes of the reader? My suggestion is that you read and to make your own decision. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading Milk and Honey. 

New Releases

Crossing the Line

by Simone Elkeles

A high-stakes story of star-crossed lovers from Simone Elkeles, the New York Times bestselling author of the Perfect Chemistry series

To escape his abusive stepdad, bad boy Ryan Hess runs from his tiny Texas border town to Mexico. But his plans to keep his head down and stay out of trouble are shattered the minute he meets the beautiful and totally out of his league Dalila Sandoval.

Dalila Sandoval shouldn’t even know someone like Ryan Hess. The daughter of one of the wealthiest lawyers in Mexico, Dalila is focused on studying and planning for her bright future. Ryan is only a distraction from her dreams, but she’s never felt more alive than when she’s by his side.

Ryan and Dalila are wrong for each other in every way. And yet they can’t resist the sparks that fly when they’re together. But their love is like a flame burning too close to the fuse.

Something is going to explode. Will their love be strong enough to survive? Or will it burn them both?

Buy It Here:

       

The Spies That Bind

by Ally Carter

An original novella and prequel to Ally Carter’s New York Times best-selling Gallagher Girls series, exclusively on Audible.

The first day at a new school is tough for any kid, but it’s especially scary when you’re going to a school for spies. Cammie Morgan has spent her whole life dreaming of becoming a Gallagher Girl, but she has no idea what she’ll face when she arrives at The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Secret passages? Check. Lab experiments that might make you lose your eyebrows (and other body parts)? Check. Classmates who are the smartest, strongest, most intimidating girls in the world? Double check.

Cammie might be a Gallagher legacy, but she’s about to learn that the most intimidating part about the Gallagher Academy are the Gallagher Girls themselves. Soon Cammie and her clumsy-but-genius roommate Liz, and the glamorous Bex have to learn the most important lesson of the seventh grade: getting into spy school is hard. Surviving spy school is harder.

Buy It Here:

 

Nyxia

by Scott Reintgen

“A high-octane thriller . . . Nyxia grabs you from the first line and never lets go.” —Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Warcross

Every life has a price in this sci-fi thriller—the first in a trilogy—that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runnerand the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae

What would you be willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune?

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

Buy It Here:

       

Warcross

by Marie Lu

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Buy It Here:

       

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

by Jamie Ford

From the bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet comes a powerful novel, inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle’s epic 1909 World’s Fair.

For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.”

The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired.

But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love.

Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters.

Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion—in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

Buy It Here:

       

The Fourth Monkey

by JD Barker

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called “a talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

Two days to save her . . .

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

One day . . .

As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows that even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

Zero.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out as the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

“Creepy, scary . . . and impossible to put down! The Fourth Monkey is everything a thriller should be—a must-read!”—Heather Graham, New York Times best-selling author of Law and Disorder

“A twisted, movie-worthy serial killer thriller.”—Crime by the Book

Buy It Here:

       
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