Pub Rants

Tagged young adult

Sounding Too Adult

Status: I already know that tomorrow is going to be a 10 or 12 hour day.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SILENT NIGHT By Nat King Cole

As the young adult genre continues to do well, it’s no surprise that a lot of authors who write for the adult market might want to try their hand at a YA novel. This evening I finished up a client manuscript and then read a couple of submissions.

Several of them were from authors looking to do just that. I passed on two of them because the writers hadn’t nailed the YA voice. It’s hard to pinpoint and clearly explain to the writer what exactly is off about the voice but ultimately, the character felt too experienced and capable in the story to be a teen.

In other words, the writer had imposed too much of an adult perspective into the narration. It’s a tough balance and all I can say is that for me as the reader, it just feels off or unconvincing. And it’s tough to correct because even a good critique reader might not be able to explain to the writer about how to fix it. I know that if I had to explain it to these two passes, I’d be hard pressed to give concrete feedback the writer would find helpful.

So if you are a writer looking to make that transition, be sure to read a lot in the YA genre and maybe even have a teen or teens on board as part of your critique group. After all, they would know best.

After 200 Webinar Pitches…Take 2

STATUS: Heading out early to meet with tax accountant.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE SWEETEST TABOO by Sade

Sara was in the office today so we put our heads together on a couple of other tidbits of feedback we gleaned from the all the pitch critiques we did.

Here are a couple of other culprits we discovered while critiquing that would have made us pass had we not being doing that editorial input.

1) Too much emphasis on the world building without giving equal weight or emphasis to the story and the characters in it.

2) Mechanics of the writing was unpolished—as in there were syntax and obvious grammar errors within the pitch itself.

3) Vague descriptions such as: “suddenly a new discovery threatens everything INSERT CHARACTER NAME holds dear.” The problem is that such grand but vague statements don’t tell the reader anything. It’s like saying “this restaurant serves food.”

4) We couldn’t understand the world because the description was unclear. (By the way, we debated whether this fits under “convoluted plot” of yesterday’s entry but we don’t think so it. It feels separate.) You have to choose the right details about your world in the pitch because you can’t explain everything. You can only highlight an element or two that will stand out as unique about the world.

5) Writers who made up a name for a creature or an element but didn’t include any explanation of what it was in the pitch so it didn’t have context. This leads to confusion.

That’s all she wrote folks.

More Sade music on iLike

After 200 Webinar Pitch Critiques…

STATUS: ! I think that exclamation point says it all.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ISN’T IT ROMANTIC by Rod Stewart

I can unequivocally give my blog readers the #1 culprit of why pitch paragraphs in adult or children’s SF&F query letters miss.

Drumroll please….

Convoluted plot that can’t be followed in the pitch paragraph.

Interestingly enough, in the presentation itself, I gave the missing plot catalyst as the# 1 reason for why we pass. Convoluted description of the plot was #3. I might have to revise that!

Post webinar, most participants got the concept of “inciting incident” or main plot catalyst pretty clearly; it was building the rest of the pitch paragraph that proved tough. I think everyone who submitted a pitch to be critiqued got a sense of just how hard it is to create a good one.

A bit of advice? Your pitch is not something you want to go it alone on. You need feedback and from a variety of sources. If you learn nothing else from that session, take that tidbit away with you.

And because I’m a nice person, I’m going to share my Top 10 list for blog reading edification.


Reason 10: Generic descriptors of the story

Reason 9: Overkill on World Building details and not enough about the story itself.

Reason 8: Explaining that unlike already published SF&F novels, your work has character development

Reason 7: Popular trends (such as Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies) with no unique take clearly spelled out in pitch

Reason 6: No mention of or insight into the characters who will be driving the story

Reason 5: The manuscript is 250,000 words (or more!) and this is unpublished, debut author

Reason 4: The work is called SF&F but it sounds more like a mystery or thriller or something else.

Reason 3: Convoluted Plot that I can’t follow in the pitch paragraph

Reason 2: SF&F stereotypical archetypes as the “hook”
–the mysterious object
–the unexpected birthright
–the quest
–the villain that has risen again
–exiled to another planet
–mayhem on spaceship to new planet
–Androids with heart of gold
–The main character as the key to saving the world or species
–the just discovered talisman

Reason 1: No hook—or mention of a plot catalyst that is new or original in this genre

A New Change In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: It’s actually a gorgeous day in Colorado. 70 degrees and we are almost to the end of October! I want to pop out early and take a long walk with Chutney. I’ll work more tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DO YA by Neil Nathan

When I was out in New York, I was super pleased to hear this little tidbit of news from two editors at two different publishing houses. It used to be that in the children’s realm, an agent could only submit to one children’s imprint at a time under the larger corporate umbrella.

In the adult realm, we never did this. We’d submit to all imprints and just make sure the editors in the same house knew who else had it.

Well, it was considered a no-no in the children’s realm (Sidenote: I often did what I wanted anyway and submit simultaneously if I thought the project was right for more than one imprint. I did get reprimanded a couple of times, but what are they going to do? Not allow me future submissions?)

Anyway, to get back on topic, I’m super thrilled to hear the news because of course I’m not interested in deliberately annoying people. I just thought this rule was rather dumb.

What if I submit to one imprint at let’s say XYZ Children’s and the project moves fast (as in lots of editors interested) but that particular XYZ editor passes on it. Well, now there is no time for me to ping another XYZ editor at a different imprint. I’m already setting up the auction or what have you. Now that publisher is completely shut out of the action even though the project “might” have been a fit for a different imprint and editor.

It bugged me. I never want a publisher to not have the opportunity to participate and now that there is a shift in mindset on this particular topic, it won’t happen.

More Neil Nathan music on iLike

When It’s Not Hot, Passion Can Carry It

STATUS: Why does the phone ring only after I’ve stepped out of the office?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU SANG TO ME by Marc Anthony

Clarification: Adult SF is currently not hot. YA SF is doing just fine. Sorry about the confusion!

This week I went on submission with an adult SF novel. Ask any editor and they will tell you, adult SF is not hot. Fantasy is hot—particularly urban fantasy. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to blog readers if you track PW or NYT bestseller lists.

It’s not like I’m revealing some deep and hidden secret here.

And here’s where my passion for the project means everything. If I were smart, I wouldn’t take on an SF novel from a debut writer. Even if I do sell it, the money I’ll earn from it will barely pay the agency’s electric bill for three months.

Plain and simple. That’s the reality.

But I love SF. Grew up reading it. In my mind, some of the most important novels published in the last 20 years have been in this field so I did it anyway. Because I felt a passion for the story that I didn’t feel for the YA project I decided to pass on earlier this week (and will probably sell for more money than this SF novel will).

That’s the only way I can be in the game. I know writers hate hearing that agents or editors need to feel “the love” but folks, selling novels is not an easy biz. (Which, by the way, is why most agents don’t specialize in fiction but instead focus on nonfiction to build lucrative client lists).

We also want to take on authors for their whole careers. If we agents can connect with their writing at the passionate, visceral level, then chances are good we are a good fit for future work to come.

Last year I took on a YA author for a historical novel that I could not sell (and I still think editors were crazy not to buy it). But the writing… I still can read that unsold novel and fall in love with the author’s talent all over again. So we pushed on and got going on the next work. And it was that next project that sold. At auction.

Passion was the key—for me and for that author. And if I can’t sell this SF debut, then I already believe in the next work.

Talk About the Money

STATUS: If I read my latest Publishers Weekly magazine at the same time as getting a pedicure, does that qualify as working? Hey, it’s summer time.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I AND LOVE AND YOU by Avett Brothers

Last weekend I spoke at my local Lighthouse Writers Litfest. They wrapped up two weeks of celebrating literature and authors with an agent panel at the Tattered Cover in Lodo (which stands for Lower Downtown)—and to be honest, agents doesn’t sound overly celebratory to me but hey, they thought that was the way to do it. Didn’t you know that most of us are full of hot air?

One of the questions asked at the panel was how much of an advance can a writer expect for a debut novel.

Admit it. All of you just perked up your ears. Always, always, writers want to know about the dollars involved. The problem is that this question is really hard to answer. Depending on the novel, it literally could go for any amount of money.

When pressed, which happened of course, the audience wanted to know what was “typical.”

Once again, no such thing but if you hold a gun to my head, I’ll say this:

1. Most debut novels will have advances of under 25k per book. I’d say that’s typical.

2. What a debut novel will get for an advance will depend on genre.
a. Romance novels—5-15k per book
b. YA or MG—10-30k
c. Mysteries & thrillers—Uh, no idea. Don’t rep them. Janet Reid, my friend, can you chime in here? I think you are the Queen of repping this genre.
d. Literary fiction—10-30k
e. Women’s fic—10-30k (are you noticing a pattern here?)
f. SF&F—5-25k

Okay, fine. I told you the money—as long as you realize this list is meaningless, we’re fine.

Have I sold a debut romance author for six figures? Yes. Debut literary author for six figures? Yes. SF&F debut author for 6? Not yet (but I’ve gotten really close…).

Etc. It all depends on how many editors want your particularly debut novel. For my part, I often feel the most satisfaction for selling a debut that took forever to place (and the author was on the verge of giving up hope) and the novel I sold for peanuts that then exploded and just sold and sold.

Now that’s the kind of money I like to talk about.

BEA Pics

STATUS: Working on the To Do list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BEAUTY IN THE WORLD by Macy Gray

The life of an agent is indeed a hard one—as you can tell from the following BEA pic. I really took one for the team in doing that shot with Simone and Alex at her signing for RULES OF ATTRACTION. *grin* Alexander F. Rodriquez starred as Simone’s character of Alex in the RULES OF ATTRACTION trailer.

Here are two shots of Alex and Simone signing in the Walker Booth:

Here’s a shot of Simone posing with a Fan in the Flux booth during a signing for RETURN TO PARADISE:

In that same Flux booth is a great poster of REVAMPED, an upcoming release from NLA client Lucienne Diver:

BEA YA Editor Buzz Panel

STATUS: Post-BEA madness. Seriously, I have a TO DO list 3 pages long.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DANCING QUEEN by Luke Bloom

I’m back! I had the worst internet connection at my hotel. It made trying to be online beyond frustrating. I ended up only responding to emails via my iPhone and forget about blogging! Yesterday was a bit of a crunch as well so sorry about that.

So let me start filling you folks on BEA tidbits. Most of it is relevant post-show so not to worry. I think the YA editor buzz panel tends to be a nice barometer of what editors will think is “hot” in the fall. In a sense, the editors may be highlighting trends that they think will continue to be strong. Whether that’s true or not I really can’t say. I have followed the “big” books highlighted in past buzz panels and some have gone on to be huge and others have caused just a faint ripple.

So, here are the titles from the panel. Links to them online if you want to read short plot synops:

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

I could be totally wrong but my general sense of the crowd’s reaction was one of ennui. I also asked a bunch of other people I knew there and they agreed with my assessment so it wasn’t just my imagination. The crowd was listless and didn’t perk up until THE DUFF was mentioned (which by the way, my latest NYT bestselling author Simone Elkeles read for a blurb and loved it so maybe put it on your Wish list).

I think booksellers and librarians are kind of tired of paranormal novels (TWILIGHT but with….). Now having said that, I don’t think teens are and I do think these books are worth watching and may hit solidly this fall. If you were also there at the panel, feel free to chime in on your own assessment of the crowd’s reaction.

I have not read any of the above except for MATCHED as we saw that one on submit, offered rep, and alas were one of 7 agents who offered for it. Needless to say, didn’t land with us. Sold for big money so we were rather sad but hey, went to a great agent that I like so at least we were in the game.

So now y’all can watch the releases this fall and see how they play out. Is the paranormal trend over or still going strong? The next couple of months will be telling for that. I’ve noticed some strong non-paranormal contenders hitting the NYT list as of late. That could be a sign as well.

Bologna Children’s Book Fair—Days 2 Thru 4

STATUS: Currently sitting on a terrace in Florence and drinking wine.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

I’m back!

A bad internet connection at my hotel made any daily blogging difficult. I actually tried popping up to press room one afternoon as it had been rumored there was free internet there. Alas, that was not so. I’m also on vacation this coming week so I’m going to post a bunch of entries today to get you through the week.

Bologna in a Wrap Up.

1. The “big” book of the fair was a middle grade fantasy called EMERALD ATLAS. From the buzz I heard, there was a large auction in the US for the title at the same time a lot of foreign publishers decided to kick in some good money as well.

On the whole, this was seen as a positive sign that middle grade could make a little resurgence soon as sales have been slow in this arena—despite a lot of editors looking for good MG material.

2. Almost all foreign editors expressed some fatigue in vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, and all things paranormal. Despite that, these titles were still selling like crazy in their territories so I’m not sure what to tell you. I actually got a lot of interest in my fun vampire books as they are a bit different but on the whole, foreign editors weren’t jumping on things paranormal unless it was a ‘big” book.

3. YA is still hot.

4. Foreign editors love Ally Carter. She seems to be the one non-paranormal author who works well abroad. We just found out she is a bestseller in Brazil. How fun is that?

There it is in a nutshell really.