The feedback and trends from my recent BEA meetings and meetings with editors in New York City were varied, but there were some genre take aways that I can share that reflect where the industry is right now–especially in commercial trade publishing.
I’m not saying anything new, you’ve probably all heard this on Twitter, on blogs, or in bookstores. But, here are trends that have arguably hit saturation:
- Time Travel
That doesn’t mean that editors aren’t looking at it. Some will consider it, but ONLY if it is very, very special and unique. It does mean that the number of editors that would take a chance on it right now are super slim. Continue reading
Many frequent visitors to this blog know about what I’m looking for in queries and new projects. Here is an updated list of things I’m dying to see come in to me:
- Upmarket women’s fiction (high stakes, family issues, love, troubled heart, travel) with a new fresh concept
- Small town romance
- Historical fiction (i.e. The Tudor period, Regency, in the tradition of Philippa Gregory)
- Platform based non-fiction: must have a demonstrable expertise and know your quantifiable market
- Pop science and pop psychology proposals (i.e. brands, consumer behaviour, creativity, business with a commercial spin)
- Gritty contemporary YA
- High concept YA with a fresh new concept that hasn’t been done (i.e. light fantasy)
- High concept picture books that stand out from the pack Continue reading
How agents spend their working day is a bit confusing for many authors. There is the impression that we read all day long, when in fact the reading we do is on the weekends and evenings. What we do during the week involved managing submissions for new work and managing relationships between editors, and clients who have deals in place including contract negotiation.
The reality is that our days are busy, time sensitive, and based on priority. (For more on what we do see this post on agent skills and the typical day of an agent.) You are one client to an agent with many clients that have varying needs. In many authors’ minds the ratio is 1:1 and you are always on your agents’ agenda. In reality, we manage many clients and it’s unrealistic to assume that.
However, we’ll always be there when you need us (see priority above), we’ll always be there to manage issues and problems that come up, but our other clients might be having issues that need problem solving as well so we do a balancing act of all this, plus doing deals. Continue reading
Agents say they are open to certain genres, but we pass on the majority of content that comes in. So what are we really looking for? Honestly, we don’t know why we fail to connect with work. It could very well be the quality of writing as it often is, but sometimes it’s more elusive than that: we don’t love it. Here are some of the behind the scenes answers for why we fail to connect:
I know you writers think that agents have a pretty great gig. And we do! We do it because we love finding emerging writers and developing their career while sharing their work with the world. However, there are parts of our job that not all writers are aware of and I share some here:
- We get rejected too! We manage the careers for multiple clients and if you think getting passes from editors for your book is tough think about us: we love all our clients’ books and get passes for the majority of them until we find a home.
- If you think writing a query letter is difficult, we write pitch letters for all our clients’ projects. We do our research, tailor them to each editor, carefully proofread and re-read to make sure we nailed the hook, and send them out with nerves just like you do as writers.
- Like non fiction writers sending proposals to agents, agents write proposals for our clients to send to editors. Now it varies how much we assist in this process, but often I’ve written 85% of client proposals to get them up to industry standards. If you think all that research is tough, we do the exact same thing: overview, author bio, your market, a marketing plan, comparative titles, and sample material. Continue reading
The London Book Fair was held April 16th to 18th this year. After 16 meetings with scouts, co-agents and editors–where we talked about what was going on in their markets and where I pitched our clients’ books–we got a great sense of what was going on in the international market and what was working domestically and abroad.
Themes of the fair:
Big books are getting bigger
With the midlist shrinking companies are investing in the big books. Books by authors with a track record of success and authors that have a strong following. With book stores shrinking their book space (and filling it with lifestyle items) the books that are picked up by book buyers have to garner major attention. It’s a tough reality for debuts, but debuts have a chance to really break out and shine in this focused environment.
Authors need to be comfortable developing online communities and social platforms
As agents and industry professionals constantly tell aspiring writers an online platform is no longer a choice, it’s a must. With smaller marketing budgets writers need to develop their own communities to help spread the word about their book. So a comfortability with Twitter, Facebook, Good Reads and other sites like Pinterest are important and something editors look for debut writers to have.
YA market is still very active
That being said, there is great dystopian and paranormal fatigue. The YA market is strong abroad and places like Brazil rely on YA romances to crossover as that’s what their readers are looking for. Continue reading
Trust. Seems like a simple concept, but so much of what we as agents do requires complete and utter trust from our authors. You might not understand all the moves we make, or why we have to be the voice of the industry sometimes, but our job is to communicate our actions as best as we can while requiring trust from our clients that we are making the best decisions for them and their career.
Our job is to advise you, with your best interests in mind, and consulting you on those decisions, but when you sign on with an agent you have to go through the check list of everything you want in an agent, and the ‘agent qualities’ they possess, and see if you can rely on them and work with this person through all the ups and downs.