Pub Rants

Tagged young adult

What They Don’t Want

STATUS: I’m always an optimistic. It’s no longer morning (shoot, it’s almost dinner time) but I am going to blog today. TGIF!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHAT YOU NEED by INXS

Sometimes it’s just as interesting to find out what editors don’t want. I’ve perused my notes to come up with this little list to share with y’all.

1. Thrillers where the conclusion is obvious.
2. Police procedurals that try too hard to be multicultural rather than authentic.
3. Romance that is too soft and fuzzy with no real meat to the emotional story.
4. Romance set in the Regency ballroom. Let’s mix it up some.
5. No stories about women over 40 starting a new life. Seen this too many times. Even if well written, it’s going to be too hard to push.
6. In YA and MG, taking popular trends and trying to make the story deep and literary.
7. MG fantasy that is too average and with the regular story tropes.
8. Epic fantasy—unless something really unusual or phenomenal writing.
9. Chick litty YA with no substance.
10. A bad story poorly told

Just wanted to check that you were really reading…

And just to top it off, in film, dark stories with no happy ending are a tough, tough sell.

What UK Children’s Editors Want

STATUS: Spent the day being a lovely tourist instead of working. And sorry for the tiny covers of yesterday. My computer or Blogger was not cooperating and despite efforts, I couldn’t get the pics to upload bigger and I didn’t have time to fiddle.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ACCIDENTALLY IN LOVE by Counting Crows

To kick off the blog entry, here is a lovely shot of Blenheim Palace from the gardens.

Alas, Colin Firth did not emerge dripping wet from any neighboring lakes or ponds—much to Sarah Rees Brennan and my great disappointment.

Now that I’m back at the flat, I’m flipping through my little notebook of scribbled writings. From what I can decipher (as my handwriting is not always the best), here are some things UK children’s editors are looking for. In no particular order and a nice sum up of what several editors spotlighted:

–More boy adventure books (although one publisher specifically said their list is full in this arena so not as high on their list)
–YA historical
–would love a prize-winning new teen voice along the lines of HOW I LIVE NOW
–Funny with beautiful writing (so a blend of literary with a really fun story line)
–a modern Anne of Green Gables
–middle grade fantasy that is a girl-driven narrative
–humorous girl stuff that is more than just boys and relationships but is warm, and character driven. Not necessarily issue driven
–high concept middle grade with a really original voice so it can stand out.
–anything that can crossover solidly to the adult market (ie. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF A DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME)
–a contemporary author with a literary, classic voice. (hum.. that seems to tie in with the modern Anne of Green Gables example above)

Different houses did have different feelings on the market. One house thought that Meg Cabot and her popularity was in the past and another thought she was still burning strong.

I got a sense that all the editors would be open to anything romantic. No surprise there.

And even though I know my blog readers love my lists, it basically comes down to this. Editors want an original story well told.

In that sense, the US and the UK are the same.

Bologna By Day & Night

STATUS: Heavens it was a crazy day!

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

And I haven’t got the energy for a proper entry. Sorry. But hey, PW’s Craig Virden is blogging Bologna By Day & Night. And for those of you living under a rock, we are talking about the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair—THE rights fair for anything in the children’s realm.

Dad Wisdom & Publishing

STATUS: I really need to tackle the emails piling up in my inbox.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WOODS by George Winston

When I was in high school, my dad told me two things. Finding that special someone is all about timing and HS boys are intimidated by bright women.

Funny enough, I thought that was a lot of hooey. Sheepish apology to my lovely dad because he pretty much was right. But as a teen, you pretty much assume that a parent couldn’t possibly be right.

Hindsight really is 20/20.

So what in the world does this have to do with publishing? Well, two things actually.

The first I’m actually a little hesitant to say but I’m inspired by a recent entry from Editorial Ass on a whole different topic but tangential in nature, so I think I’ll take a risk and put this comment out there as well.

From my personal experience (and I really can only speak from that perspective), I truly believe that for literary fiction, it’s much easier to sell boy writers than gals. I know. Who can possibly make such a general statement but I have to say that I’ve encountered several worthy manuscripts that I’m rather convinced that if the writer had been male, the novel would have sold.

Just empirical proof, of course; no scientific method employed.

And second, publishing is often about timing. For example, if you are currently a writer of young adult or middle grade fiction and you have a paranormal element (read: vampire, werewolf, witch or what have you), you might be stymied by the timing of putting said project on submission right now.

The market is crowded. Editors are weary in some respects. (Agents too!) Just last week I had an editor turn down even looking at a manuscript because she felt her list was too crowded with the supernatural.

That’s a sure sign that a trend is winding down. Now that doesn’t mean nothing in that realm will sell. It just means that any project that does will have to be X times better, X times more original, than similar projects sold 2 years ago.

The Accidental Children’s Agent

STATUS: Got the cover for Helen Stringer’s middle grade novel SPELLBINDER today and it rocks! Flat out I can’t wait to share when it’s ready, ready. I just love it when the cover works completely. The concept, the art, the font. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s my very first middle grade novel sold. Squee!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STRANGE by Patsy Cline

When I first started my agency back in 2002, I repped adult fiction and nonfiction. Within two years, I knew that my heart wasn’t in the nonfiction projects. I enjoyed reading it; I didn’t enjoy repping it. But all my agent mentors told me that you couldn’t have a successful agency without nonfiction. I was told again and again that it was so much easier to sell then fiction.

Obviously I didn’t get that memo because for me, my experience was the exact opposite. Take on a novel, sell. Take on a self help project, a root canal would be better then that submission. It just wasn’t my talent.

And I didn’t represent anything in the children’s realm. I hadn’t read any titles in years; I mistakenly assumed I wouldn’t be any good at it.

Then a client of mine had written a YA novel and asked if I would rep it. This was at the beginning of 2004. Not having any experience in this realm, even at my previous agency, I had to learn. I analyzed all the deals and tidbits I could find on Publishers Marketplace. I called up several agent friends who specialized in children’s and said, “tell me who do I need to know.” They did and off to New York I went to meet with those editors.

The minute I walked into an editor’s office, which had a life size cut-out of Glinda The Good Witch, I knew I was in the right place. It was just a moment of powerful realization.

I ended up selling my first young adult project at auction in under two weeks. Then I was hooked. Because all I had on board at the time were writers writing for the adult market, I sent out an email to all my clients to see if anyone else was interested in writing for the young adult market.

You guessed it. The only client who emailed back with interest was Ally Carter—and I don’t think I need to retell that story! The accidental children’s agent.

I remember talking to my husband right after my first YA sale and I mentioned just how much I was enjoying this whole other aspect of publishing. My hubby replied, “Duh, it’s a no brainer that you would like it.”

“Why is that I asked?” genuinely puzzled.

He said, “look at our DVD shelf. What do you see?” I went over to peruse the titles and sure enough, there was an impressive amount of high school-set titles.

I was rather sheepish. I hadn’t even realized but he was so right. It was an obvious and natural fit that now I can’t figure out what took me so long to get a clue.

But I’m here now, accident or no, and how sweet it is. I can’t wait for my first two MG projects to publish this fall.

Teens Speak

STATUS: Tired but happy from the long working weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IN YOUR EYES by Peter Gabriel

ALA wraps up today—for me anyway. I actually think Librarians are meeting for another day or two to finish up discussions.

Hands down the best session I attended was on Sunday afternoon when the Best Books for Young Adults met with area teens to discuss the titles that have been nominated.

The session was packed as editors, agents, librarians all sat in to hear about which books caught the teens’ attention on the nomination list. Unfortunately, the nomination list was 9 pages long and the teens only got a chance to air their views on the first four pages. I, for one, would like to vote on making the session significantly longer so we could hear what the teens had to say on all the possible titles but that wasn’t an option yesterday. The last five pages of nominated titles were done in 25 minutes and teens were only allowed to speak once about a title they liked from those 5 pages. I was pretty thrilled to hear two teens pick Brooke Taylor’s UNDONE as their choice from those undiscussed pages.

As for the teen commentary, it was pretty revealing.

Yes there were some teens who were so excited about a book, it was hard for them to articulate anything beyond “I really, really loved this” but there were many teens who were sharp, analytical, articulate in their views about why they did or didn’t like something.

Heck, I wanted to hire some of them to be my teen review committee!

Of course there were the usual gushes for Stephenie Meyer, Melissa Marr, and Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES and Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER but there were also some surprises.

Like the teen boy who prefaced his comment that he wasn’t one for poetry but did enjoy THE APPRENTICE’S MASTERPICE: A STORY OF MEDIEVAL SPAIN. Told in verse no less! I think some of us swooned and wondered where this kid was when we were in high school!

Boys liked Eoin Colfer’s AIRMAN and James Kennedy’s THE ORDER OF ODD-FISH.

Girls loved AUDREY, WAIT!

Other favorites were GRACELING and NATION. Also, THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR DOGS had very passionate responses and made me want to read the book.

There were mixed teen reviews on LUXE and lots of teens were drawn to a novel called GONE (as in the title grabbed their interest and they picked it up) but ultimately none of them gave the title a favorable review.

Also interesting was the fact that the books that the teens loved didn’t always line up with the titles the committee members from Best Books For Young Adults were voting for to make the final list.

And I’m sure you’ve heard this already but the Printz Award for best YA for 2008 went to JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta.

A title I’d never heard of I have to admit.

Newbery Medal went to Neil Gaiman’s THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

Just Like New York But Denver

STATUS: All my appointments are set for the weekend. It’s going to be busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE by The Cure

ALA officially began for me tonight as I had my first editor dinner with Susan Chang of Tor. I must say I love it when conferences are held in my home town. It’s like a trip to New York without the travel!

I’m very glad we met up though because most of you know that Macmillan has gone through a large restructuring over the last few months. The biggest change is in how the children’s divisions will operate. Before, each imprint was a separate entity with its own publisher, sales force, marketing dept. etc. Now all the children’s divisions are gathered under one umbrella and will be sharing things like the sales force, marketing and promotion people, reporting to one publisher head rather than six. Although, I’ve been told, each imprint will keep its own publishing vision and imprint identity even though they are now all one big family called Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.

All except Tor, which was news to me. Tor is still considered a completely separate entity with Susan and her children’s imprint reporting directly to Tom Doherty.

To quote Frontier Airlines, Tor is still a whole other animal! Interesting. In general they have always been known to be less corporate (which can fabulous in some respects—such as creative vision and the embracing of new talent—and frustrating in other ways—such as long response times on submissions). But they’ve always been known to be independent, slightly quirky, and with smart editors.

So far, that hasn’t changed. Go Tor.

Susan and I also got into an interesting discussion about SF and young adult. Both of us agreed that SF in the young adult world works best when the novels aren’t labeled SF.

Seriously. One look at the Uglies series and The Hunger Games rather proves that out. Those books are basically SF but never called so. I can name a host of other examples as well.

We also talked briefly about the popularity of fantasy in the children’s realm and why they didn’t seem to translate to fantasy readers in the adult world. We didn’t play with any theories but it’s an interesting conundrum. What happens to those avid fantasy readers as they age?

There’s probably an essay waiting to be written there if it hasn’t been tackled already.

ALA Midwinter

STATUS: It has been just overwhelmingly beautiful in Denver the last two days. 70 degrees +. Can you blame me for skipping out early just to walk in the sunshine? Have laptop, can work from home when the sun goes down.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NICK OF TIME by Bonnie Raitt

As I mentioned yesterday, ALA Midwinter is happening in Denver this weekend. But what is ALA you might be asking. It stands for the American Library Association and this weekend is their midwinter conference. They also have an annual conference that happens in the summertime.

Midwinter is what the industry calls a “working” conference. Now all big conferences are work but what is meant by the term is that this conference is about the business of running ALA. There are many division and committee meetings.

Most important are the discussions that will determine the awards for the Printz, Newbery, and the Caldecott. These are not open to the public.

But many of the discussions are. For example, the Notable Children’s Books Committee and the BBYA, which stands for Best Books For Young Adults, are both discussions that anyone can attend.

In other words, I can sit in on librarian chats that will spotlight the books they are excited about and what they’ll be recommending to their young readers.

Heck yes.

And I’m definitely going to be at the BBYA presentation where members will be talking about one of my books that has been nominated: UNDONE by Brooke Taylor

Now the ALA midwinter conference does encompass the adult and children’s world but for whatever reason, the main emphasis tends to be on the children’s books. More to come as the conference unfolds.

In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: Computer stuff is ongoing and will spill into tomorrow. Oh Joy. (Love the new monitor though!)

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ON THE RADIO by Donna Summer

Because I promised to share my notes (and I only have about 10 minutes to blog), here is what I have scribbled down from the children’s editors I talked to. In no particular order:

–Looking for contemporary stories with a paranormal element. Contemporary main story with just a touch of paranormal.

–voice and character driven fiction (isn’t that what all editors want?)

–a family-oriented story with complicated relationship between main character and parents or main character and siblings etc.

–gritty fiction

–novels where the reader watches while the main female protagonist makes bad choices or learns to survive

–quirky funny, outcasts, dark but weirdly funny

–MG fantasy

–literary voices in YA or MG, well-crafted stories

–more Meg Cabot-type stuff

–hip or hot topics

–MG or YA with boy protagonists

Creep Factor Anyone?

STATUS: Back at my hotel early enough to blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO MUCH TO SAY by Dave Matthews Band

Sorry for the radio silence yesterday. I flew in to New York on Sunday and it’s been a whirlwind of meetings.

I have to say that the mood is a little somber in publishing. I heard a rumor of some layoffs at Random House which did indeed happen. I think people in general are nervous about the economy and that’s no less true in publishing.

However, there’s still lots to get excited about. I had lunch today with two editors from Little, Brown Children’s and even though we did spend a good portion of the lunch lamenting the loss of MY SO CALLED LIFE (Gosh, I loved that show and I’m so glad I’m not the only geek missing it…), we did spend some time talking about what we’d love to see.

Both editors are convinced that werewolves might be the new vampires (and that Zombies are almost over). Never thought I’d put those things in a sentence together! And although paranormal, vampires, and werewolves have been hot in the adult market, the children’s field hasn’t really caught up and there might be lots of room for that. I can see it.

We all agreed that we’d love a story that could creep us out. Horror hasn’t been hot in children’s for a long time and the timing just might be right for that. This summer I looked at a YA horror that I really, really wanted to work but the writing/story just wasn’t quite there yet.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. I just sold a steampunkish fantasy in the adult world earlier in the year (SOULLESS) and these children’s editors could really see a steampunk YA working… (yeah, you probably saw that recent Scott Westerfeld deal too…)

I was at a couple of other children’s publishers yesterday and let me tell you, all the editors eagerly asked if I had anything for middle grade right now (which, sadly, I don’t). Lots and lots of room in the MG world.

In the adult world at Little, Brown, one editor mentioned that she would really love to see a big woman-written and women-oriented thriller. A literary thriller wouldn’t go amiss either.

I’m sensing a theme….