Friday, February 29, 2008

Private Arrangements Before It Releases!

STATUS: In a hurry…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE ME TWO TIMES by The Doors

Dashing out the door (pardon the pun) but I didn’t want to forget to mention a really cool giveaway that is going on over at Dear Author. Jane finagled 20 advanced final copies of PRIVATE ARRANGMENTS from Bantam (and it doesn’t release for another 5 weeks!). She’s giving them away on her blog and the giveaway ends Midnight tonight if you want to get your hands on one and see what all the buzz is about.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vampires All The Time Or None Of The Time



STATUS: What news I’ve received this week! Ally Carter is in week 9 on the New York Times Bestseller List with I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU. If that isn’t enough, my author Hank Ryan just found out that PRIME TIME has been nominated for a 2007 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Holy wow!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATCHING THE WHEELS by John Lennon

So what became clear today? On the romance side, the editors are feeling a little tired concerning vampires. On the Urban fantasy side, editors say “bring it on.” Vampires sell. Vampires all the time.

And I had lunch with a children’s editor from HarperCollins and she said vampires are still okay with her.

But the one thing EVERYONE agreed on is that the vampire twist would have to be special, something different, really solid world building, for them to make the buy.

Anybody sick of hearing about vampires yet?

In other news, contemporary or urban fantasy is selling very well. All the editors are open to a large (or epic) fantasy along the lines of Patrick Rothfuss THE NAME OF THE WIND but unless it’s a title that can go big like that (and in hardcover), the mood isn’t to take the chance as the market is soft in that general realm at the moment.

High concept, big, up-market commercial literary fiction that can be done in hardcover (or maybe broken out big via original trade paperback) is on everyone’s wish list.

There has been lots of buzz around a Ace buy last year that’s coming out this year called DESTROYER MAN.

That’s military/alternate world fantasy and I have to say that although it’s not my usual bag (military that is), the description of this novel had me wanting a copy. Just proof that any tale well told can cause excitement.

I also had the best sushi in a long time tonight in my hood (Sushi Samba). I had been told it was overrated and I was a bit hesitant but was won over completely by an amazing bottle of Saki and something they call the Pacific roll. Truly, I have not seen the like in Denver and that makes me rather sad.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Year Delay

STATUS: I’m awake. Heck, that’s a good start to the day. I love being in NYC and doing appointments but it’s tough to be gone all day and then still keep up on all the work that needs to be attended to at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Talking Heads

Most of you already know this but for the new readers who might not, this is what you need to keep in mind.

What editors bought last year are the projects that are hitting shelves now. That means if you have a project now that has similar elements to novels hitting the shelves, you’re too late. This is especially true in the world of romance (paranormal in particular) where the trends are pretty easy to spot and the market does shift within a year or two timeframe.

I had coffee with an editor at Dorchester yesterday afternoon. If you know anything about this house, they lean toward debut writers, the editors read a lot of slush on their own, and they don’t mind taking risks with new kinds of material.

This editor is even still open to dark, interesting paranormals but lately there has been a trend of demons being the new vampires.

Or instead of demons, we have dragons.

Folks, it’s not the paranormal element that makes your story fresh or original, it’s the amazing world you build within your paranormal romance that makes the difference. From the slush stuff Sara and I have seen lately, a lot of writers haven’t quite learned that distinction.

So what would this editor love to see?

1. Blends of historical with fantasy (C.L. Wilson’s LORD OF THE FADING LANDS did well—and was quite long to boot)

2. Urban fantasy with a strong romance.

What this editor has too much of?

1. Mystery romance

2. Romantic comedy or straight contemporary romance is a tough field for them (but I have heard that editors are looking for it at other houses so this might be a publisher-specific thing.)

I think what you should take away from all these posts of mine lately is that it’s good to know the market but ultimately don’t get overwhelmingly caught up into it.

I’ll tell you right now that if I found a new, exciting author with a fresh mystery/romance or a vampire paranormal, I could sell it if the story was original, amazing, and basically reinvented how we view the paranormal romance world.

And that’s the kicker. It would have to be just that good when the market is awash in vampire stories or what have you.

Make sense?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chutney In Manhattan

STATUS: Who are these writers who expect me to proofread when it’s after midnight? Dang perfectionists. hehe

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

It’s another late night and I’m just done in for the night. I’ve got great things to share from my meetings today but it will just have to wait until I’m coherent tomorrow morning—and then I’ll blog for real.

In the meantime, Chutney pics.

She’s such a New Yorker now. She doesn’t even want her picture taken.
Chutney at the Hudson River promenade.
"I'm just so not into you." Father Domo Park, West Village

After a long day shopping in Soho...

Monday, February 25, 2008

No Two Editors Are Alike

STATUS: It’s super late here but I’m just getting this blog in under the wire Denver time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? D’YER MAK’ER by Led Zeppelin

I had lunch and several meetings with the editors of Bloomsbury/Walker Children’s today. It was a day at the Flatirons.

And the adage couldn’t be more true. No two editors are alike.

I asked them to name the top 5 things they don’t want to see in a children’s submission.

One editor said “no more vampires.”

But the other editor said, “I’m still good; send me the vampires” (but she says she is “slightly tired” of trolls in middle grade fiction).

I have to say that for troll fiction, I have not seen nary a one.

Top five list for Editor A:

1. No more girl stories with famous dad, friend, family member or other. Give her a couple of years and then she’ll be game to see Hollywood insider stories again.

2. No teaching a lesson
(and let me add for the record that saying such in your query letter is always the kiss of death at the Nelson Agency. We are interested in the story you want to tell; not the moral you’d like to teach. Blech!)

3. Time travel is not this editor’s cup of tea (but the other editor says to bring it on).
Once again proving that an agent’s knowledge is often key concerning who is the right fit for a manuscript.

4. No more vampires, please.

5. No more comparisons of Harry Potter meets anything (and the same can be said about the Twilight series).
Darn it all. When are the other agents going to compare their submissions to the Gallagher Girls?

Editor B:

1. No including a sales or marketing plan where you tell the publisher how the book should be published.
(Gee, can’t imagine why that would go over like a lead balloon)

Dang I’m funny this late at night…

2. This needs to go to Oprah.
(Just in case you folks didn’t know, Lady O only does adult trade books).

3. No comparisons to Harry Potter
(hum… where did I hear that before?)

4. For picture/chapter books, please refrain from feeling the need to provide cover illustration done by a friend or Uncle Bob or better yet, your nephew. In fact, no “drawings” are necessary.
(Learning moment: Publishers hire the illustrator—not the author.)

5. If it’s over 400 pages (and first ask the question why your YA or middle grade is that long), but if it is, don’t send the whole thing. A couple of chapters will suffice.

Common sense that is perhaps not so common.

‘night all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hold The Gimmick

STATUS: Snowing like crazy today in New York. I actually didn’t have any lunch dates for this Friday as I was running an auction instead and that can be quite time consuming.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE’S DIVINE by Seal

However, I did have lunch with an editor from the Penguin Children’s group yesterday (I know, my waistline doesn’t much appreciate breakfast immediately followed by lunch but what can you do!)

This editor likes girl stuff (so this is the context.) She wants high concept novels because they only have a few slots open per season and the work would need to stand out as a debut.

Problem is that she’s getting gimmicky novels with very little substance or a plot that’s not big enough. She’s dying to buy that manuscript that achieves the fine balance of a great voice, terrific writing, high concept, and good character development.

In other words, just write a great novel.

Well, duh. That’s all you need to land an agent and a book deal as well.

But I do think I understand. She’s seeing submissions that have a good hook but don’t seem to have much else and that can be a problem. I know this because we see similar patterns in our own submissions.

It can be equally problematic to have great writing and no solid story to drive the plot forward.

So, for what that is worth…

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Too Many Space Ships Spoil The YA

STATUS: Heading out to check out the Off Broadway musical Altar Boyz.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? AUTUMN IN NEW YORK by Harry Connick, Jr.

It was late when I wrote yesterday’s blog so I can be forgiven but I totally forgot a key point the editor from RH had shared. She’d love to see urban fantasy with a male protagonist. They’ve been kind of scarce and there seems to be room for a new Dresden Files type work (nod to fav agent friend Ms. Jackson).

Today I had breakfast (so rare to get the editors out early!) with an editor at Tor who acquires young adult and adult SF&F.

We mostly talked about her children’s list so here’s the lunch plate of the day.

If you didn’t already know this, SF children’s is a tough sell. It has to be the right balance between SF elements and a recognizable world that has a larger general appeal. Good author examples of successes would be Garth Nix and Scott Westerfeld.

This editor is dying for something that will be accessible to a wider audience and all she seems to be getting is space ship stories, zombies, and disaster scenarios—all of which feel tired or a bit old-fashioned. She also sees a lot of stories where the parents or all the adults have kicked the bucket and it’s up to the teens to save themselves, the planet, or all of the above.

Now it’s not to say that these elements won’t work in the right story with a fresh twist but it’s the fresh part that seems to be missing.

She wants stories that are about social issues but have a cool SF element that is integral to the story. Some good Tor examples are Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER and debut author Isamu Fukui’s TRUANCY.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No Vampires Please

STATUS: It’s really late to be blogging…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH by Depeche Mode

So I had lunch with an editor from Random House who acquires for SF & F.

Her plea? No more vampires. Please. Every urban fantasy does not need to include them. Hum... where did I hear that refrain recently? Big smile.

She also expressed a longing for female heroines that aren’t killing machines. It’s okay to have a little vulnerability or emotional pull in the character.

I have to say I didn’t realize that the heartless woman assassin was a current trend but there you have it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Paranormal to UpMarket Women’s Fiction

STATUS: I got several emails this morning asking me if I was okay since I didn’t blog yesterday. I never blog on holidays! And yes, maybe President’s day is a bit of a debate but nobody in publishing was working yesterday so I took that as permission to take the day off. Besides, it was 60+ degrees here in New York and Chutney and I had Central Park to explore. Like a dork, I forgot the camera.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FIELDS OF GOLD by Sting

Today I had three meetings.

I had lunch with an editor from Little, Brown Children’s. Coffee with an editor who does both young adult and adult at Kensington. And then in late afternoon I had a meeting with an editor at Ballantine who handles upmarket commercial/literary women’s fiction.

So what did I learn?

Paranormal elements in YA is still quite hot but (an especially for this editor at Little, Brown, if she sees another Twlight vampire look-alike, she’ll spontaneously combust).

So the paranormal elements have to be really different, intriguing and in a really well-built world because the editors are seeing a lot of submissions. The manuscript would really need to stand out to cause excitement.

In terms of upmarket commercial women’s fiction, it’s all about the writing. Really, editors are looking for literary writers who can tackle the more commercial themes in a way that’s fresh and well constructed.

In other words, if you are writing in this area, go to the bookstore and see what is coming out in hardcover in this realm and start reading. Some examples from Ballantine would be Nancy Thayer’s MOON SHELL BEACH, Carol Goodman’s THE SONNET LOVER, and Nancy Pickard’s THE VIRGIN OF SMALL PLAINS.

Friday, February 15, 2008

When Love IS Better The Second Time Around

STATUS: Had my first real appts. at HarperCollins this afternoon. Funny enough, the editors and I spent more time talking about my new Kindle than upcoming projects. The associate publisher even popped in to play with it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MAMBO No. 5 by Lou Bega

Here’s another spin on the second time around. Last year I took on a new client from whom I had seen a previous novel but I had passed on (but remembered that I liked the writing). She hooked up with a different agent, but the project didn’t sell. The agent wasn’t interested in her next novel so she decided to try me again for her new stuff since it was so different from her previous novel.

Loved it. Took it on. Sent it out and it’s going to auction.

The love was definitely better the second time around.

Happens all the time by the way.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Second Time Around

STATUS: Happens every time I come to New York City. I must look like I know where I’m going because invariably a stranger will come up to me and ask for directions. This time a lady was looking for Wall Street while we were standing in the east Village.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NOTHING COMPARES 2 U by Sinead O’Connor

This entry is going to make me think of Frank Sinatra’s “Love is better the second time around” (which might be oddly appropriate for Valentine’s Day).

Lately I’ve been fielding a few requests from authors who have revised a full manuscript that I’ve read and passed on but would like me to give it another look.

I’m usually willing to if I thought the work was a near miss the first time around; however, when I look at my statistics, I have yet to sign somebody up when that has happened. (Although, oddly enough, I’ve had agent friends who have consequently signed them after I had given a thorough revision letter. Go figure!)

That got me thinking about the why behind that statistic. It’s not impossible but it is harder to feel the love the second time around and mainly I think it’s because the work doesn’t feel “fresh” because of the previous read.

That initial feeling of excitement is always a little tinged because one knows the storyline (and the possible flaws that may or may not have been fixed).

It’s hard to create that “first read” distance with a second round. I’m still convinced it can happen though which is why I’m always willing to give it a try because there is an author out there who will blow that statistic out of the water!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Agent In New York

STATUS: Well, I was doing fine (despite the incredibly odd weather here in Manhattan) until my wireless internet went down last night before I blogged. Didn’t come back up until this morning. Sorry about the blip yesterday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Al Green

So what does an agent do when she comes to New York? Lunch of course. Lots of publishing occurs over business lunches. It creates a personal and intimate setting on neutral territory to discuss either issues or needs of current clients, get the update on what that editor is currently looking for, and to generally catch up on each other’s personal lives. This is a business of personal connections and trust.

So my last two days have been frantic emailing so as to set up all my appointments. Right now it looks like I’m going out to lunch each day for the entire month I’m here in Manhattan. Saves on groceries..

Since I can only do so many lunches, I’m scheduling a few coffees and evening drinks so I can squeeze in a few more appointments.

Didn’t I say I wanted a leisurely meeting time in New York?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prelude to An Auction

STATUS: It is really freakin’ cold here in New York City. They think we have winter in Denver. Oh please. It’s six degrees. Wet. And the wind is blowing like 30 knots or something crazy like that. It’s never that cold in Denver or if it is, the sun is shining and everyone is happy. Although we went on a walk today, Chutney was unwilling to pose.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DANCING WITH MYSELF by Billy Idol
(uh, I actually don’t own this song but the radio is playing at the moment…)

I know that blog readers love to hear the inside skinny on agent stuff. So how does an agent know that an auction might potentially unfold?

Easy. When a manuscript is sent out, some editors will take a look right away (especially those editors who know me and have had the experience of submissions from me moving fast). They tend to get on it quickly.

And if they like what they see, they email or call almost immediately to say that they love what they are reading and that they are either going to finish soon (like over the weekend) and get second reads or they are already doing so. They want me to keep them abreast of any new information regarding the project (as in other interest, an impending offer, etc.)

When this kind of communication happens from more than one house (and it has to be different houses because in-house imprints can’t bid against each other), then the agent knows it’s shaking. The project has it going on and an auction might unfold.

Now, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes multiple editors from different houses show interest and those editors aren’t able to get the support to buy (support being other readers who love it as much as they do or an editorial director or publisher on board). And yes, I have had that happen.

But when there is a lot of interest early on, it usually means multiple offers and the agent has time to get her deal game plan in place.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Chutney Takes Manhattan

STATUS: Absolutely frantic as we tried to wrap up the 1099s (need to be off to the IRS before the end of the month) and get everything else in order.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE by U2

Why the big rush? On Sunday, I’m heading to New York City. That in itself is certainly not news. I tend to go there often as my office isn’t located in the big Apple and I need to do my editor meetings and face time. This year I wanted to try something different. Hence the title of this entry.

This year the whole fam is going to New York City and I’ve rented an apartment in Soho for a month. Now we’ll find out if that state-of-the-art network we installed last year is worth the money we spent on it. Supposedly, I can work seamlessly from any place in the world and still tap in to everything at my office. But never fear, if that fails, Sara will be holding down the fort.

I’m just in love with the idea of a leisurely, non-stressful time meeting with editors without cramming everything into five days with five meetings a day.

I have no desire to live in NYC but I certainly love the town when I’m visiting. And to me, this might be a nice trade-off for being in Denver for the rest of the year (although if all goes well, I might look at doing it again come fall. Let’s wait and see).

So, I’ll have lots of interesting news to post as I give you a daily report from the publishing capital of the world.

And I just might throw a pic or two of Chutney’s first time there as well. Because really, isn’t that what this blog is really about?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

There Will Always Be One

STATUS: The only problem with doing a lot of deals is doing all the time-consuming contracts. Small price to pay really.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HAPPY TOGETHER by The Turtles

I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. No matter how good a manuscript, no matter how many editors attend the auction, no matter how much the project went for in the end, there will always be at least one editor who passed on the novel.

Always.

For fun, I went back into Ally Carter’s submission folder. In case you’ve been living under a rock, one or both of Ally’s Gallagher Girl books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list for many many weeks.

She received no less than 5 rejections. Now the actual content of those letters isn’t mine to share but I can give you a general idea of why those houses passed. Two said that they thought the spy school idea had been done and it wasn’t fresh enough. Two other houses passed because they were afraid it was too similar to other books on their list (certainly a valid concern but when I look at those titles, they have never appeared on the NYT list). Okay, I probably shouldn’t have rubbed it in there.

The last house thought it should be grittier and was disappointed that it wasn’t more so.

In the end, two houses made pre-empts. One of which we accepted.

So I know there is one very sad editor out there who couldn’t convince her publisher to go higher in that pre-emptive offer and then there is Ally’s editor at Hyperion who is very glad she came in strong and now has the sales figures to validate her gamble.

Keep that in mind if you are currently on submission. I imagine that JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer also have a letter or two that might make them chuckle now.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Read The Fine Print


STATUS: If you have been reading deal lunch lately, then you’ll get a pretty good sense of what I’ve been up to. Deal after deal after deal. Love it. And even better? I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU is still at #4 on the NYT bestseller list. That’s 6 weeks and counting. Maybe it will become a permanent fixture!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHO NEEDS LOVE (LIKE THAT) by Erasure

Sheesh. You probably shouldn’t have to tell a literary agent that! I spent this morning toying with my new Amazon Kindle. I have to be honest and say that before now, I hadn’t shown much interest in e-readers.

So what pushed me over the edge? When I read an article about the new Kindle that detailed that the owner could not only easily download books from Amazon.com but could also email documents to him or herself for reading on the Kindle. Oh baby, can you say “read full manuscripts” on a nice compact and light device instead of my big whopping laptop?

I can. I signed me up for that new device as fast as my fingers could fly across the keyboard. Then promptly waited a full month before my order could be delivered. They have back log of orders at good old Amazon.

Well, the article I read forgot to mention one little thing. Yes, you can email Word and PDF documents to yourself but here’s the catch. It’s Amazon’s wireless whispernet you’re using (in conjunction with Sprint Data Technology) You guessed it. They charge $0.10 an attachment to “convert” the file to their proprietary extension that is then auto downloaded onto the Kindle.

There really is no free lunch is there? Heck, I don’t care. At least there is no monthly wireless charge and I love the darn thing already. (And to be fair, Amazon does allow you to convert to the Kindle file, download to your computer, and then transfer to the Kindle via a USB connection for free but I’m too lazy for all that.) I’m even all excited to read my first requested full manuscript on it starting tonight.

And my tech person is setting it up so Sara can send sample pages from our submissions database to my Kindle as well.

I’ll never be bored in the grocery store line ever again. Have large purse; will travel in Kindle style. Of course, this may bring new meaning to the idea of never leaving work.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Daily Digest Reading

STATUS: Caucus time in Colorado! I’m heading out early to participate in my neighborhood meeting to choose our delegate.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BAD SNEAKERS by Steely Dan

Two years ago when I was looking for an assistant, I did interviews with something like 13 or 14 candidates for the position. I began each interview with a list of our daily reading on top of all the queries/submissions/full manuscripts that we receive.

I literally had two people withdraw themselves from consideration because it was going to be too much.

Sara was actually the only candidate who said, “Yes, I understand all that but since I read very quickly, I’ll finish in no time so let me tell you how my background can contribute to growing your company.”

Yeah. Pretty obvious why I hired her, isn’t it? She’s one of the few people I have met who actually reads faster than I do.

But here’s why I share the story. You guys want to know the inside scoop about the publishing industry? Than why not read what most agents do every morning? Note: these aren’t necessarily free. Also, it will take a month or two before reading them begins to make sense because you’ll need to get more familiar with the industry, the players, etc. It is quite an education I imagine though.

In case you are interested, here’s the list of my daily digest reads:

Variety Daily News

Publishers Marketplace Pub Lunch
Publishers Marketplace Deal Lunch

Publishers Weekly Daily
Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf

Media Bistro’s Daily Media News Feed

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Research Is Free

STATUS: I can’t believe it is already 5 o’clock. Do you ever have those days where you start working and then realize you’ve missed lunch by a long shot? Sigh. All good stuff though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EAT FOR TWO by 10,000 Maniacs

Here’s an axiom to live by. Don’t pay a service to do your agent research when you can find out most of that information for free just by spending some time on the internet.

Or at the very least, pay the $20 fee for one month’s subscription to Publishers Marketplace and truly get the insider scoop on what is selling, by whom, to whom, and generally for how much. It will only cost you twenty bucks and you can rest assured that the info is fairly accurate (or close enough for your purposes).

Here’s why I feel like ranting. There is a research service out there that prides itself on offering accurate reports that they will then share with paying customers. Now I like the entrepreneurial spirit and pretty much commend that in anyone but according to this company representative, they will only accept/verify information by talking with the agent directly.

In a way, that makes sense. After all, the source would know the best but I don’t think that’s the ONLY way to gather accurate information---especially when the conversations go along like this.

First Call from Research Service
This was actually several years ago but it stands out clearly in my mind and here’s why. The owner of this business rang up to tell me about the company and then to ask me about my current client list. All information I’m happy to share.

Until he asked me when Diana Gabaldon had left my agency.

Uh…

I know this will come as a big shock to my blog readers but I’m not, and have never been, the agent for Diana Gabaldon. I do have delusions of grandeur but I don’t ever ask anyone but Chutney to share in them.

Not to mention, Diana’s agent is a guy—and she’s been with him for years and years—long before I was even agenting. Makes you wonder to whom the thought he was talking.

That’s okay. Mistakes happen. When I asked to see my report and to verify the information contained therein, I was told that was not company policy. So, what I’m saying is that my report from this service might say that Diana is a former client of mine. Goodness, I hope not.

Second call
This happened a year or so later. Same person called to get information about my current sales. Most of which is public knowledge on my website and on Publishers Marketplace—the general info anyway.

For this call, this person insisted that I reveal the dollar amounts associated with my deals. A little surprised, I said I couldn’t divulge that info—that it was confidential (except in the general terms outlined in deal lunch and approved by the author before announcing). I was then subjected to tirade about how all the other agencies share that info (which I rather doubt but whatever). I politely suggested that he simply contact those authors and ask them about the deal as it is their info to share as they please.

I was hung up on.

Third Call
Happened quite recently. This time the call came in on a Saturday. I wasn’t at the office. What in the world would I’d be doing at the office on a Saturday (besides doing my accounting upgrade but we won’t go there). If this person would like to speak to me, why not call during business hours when I’m actually around?

To this day, I have no idea what my agency report from this service looks like. Let’s hope it’s accurate but I’m not feeling overly confident about it. This leads me back to my original point.

Why pay for something that you can find out for yourself, fairly accurately, and in most instances, for free?

Friday, February 01, 2008

YA Top 25

STATUS: I just love when everything I submit sells. Makes me feel like I can do no wrong.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE SONG by The Cure

Remember when I did the top 10 things I don’t want to see in the opening chapters of a fantasy novel? Haven’t done a blog like that in a while and now I don’t have to! Writer Joelle Anthony just sent me her list of the 25 things that repeatedly show up in young adult novels that she did for the SCBWI bulletin (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators).

It’s a hoot and totally spot on so I asked her if I could share. Here it is. We are dying to know if blog readers have any contributions to the list so feel free to add.

And because it’s only fair, here’s the link to Joelle’s site so you can see the article in its entirety.

A countdown of 25 things that show up repeatedly in young adult fiction:

#25 – Vegetarian teens with unsympathetic meat-eating parents

#24 – Shy or withdrawn characters that take refuge in the school’s art room/ compassionate art teachers

#23 – A token black friend among a group of white friends - usually it’s a girl, and she’s always gorgeous

#22 – A tiny scar through the eyebrow, sometimes accompanied by an embarrassing story

# 21 – Using the word ‘rents for parents, but not using any other slang

# 20 – A beautiful best friend who gets all the guys but doesn’t want them

#19 – The wicked stepmother who turns out to be simply misunderstood and it’s all cleared up in the climax

#18 – Authors showing their age by naming characters names they grew up with (i.e. Debbie, Lisa, Kimberly, Alice, Linda, etc.)

#17 – Parents who are professional writers or book illustrators

#16 – Using coffee, cappuccino, and café latte to describe black people’s skin

#15 – Main characters named Hannah and making a note of it being a palindrome

#14 – Younger siblings who are geniuses, adored by everyone, and usually run away during the book’s climax, causing dramatic tension

#13 – The mean-spirited cheerleader (and her gang) as the story’s antagonist

# 12 – A dead mother

# 11 – Heroines who can’t carry a tune, even if it were in a bucket

# 10 – Guys with extraordinarily long eyelashes

# 9 – The popular boy dating the dorky heroine to make his former girlfriend jealous, and then breaking the heroine’s heart

# 8 – The diary, either as the entire format, or the occasional entry

# 7 – Fingernail biting

# 6 – Characters who chew on their lip or tongue in times of stress – usually until they taste blood

# 5 – Raising one eyebrow

# 4 – Main characters who want to be writers

# 3 – Calling parents by their first names

# 2 – Best friends with red hair*

And the number one thing found in YA novels…
#1 – Lists

*While lists rule in teen fiction, red-haired best friends are amazingly predominant in both MG and YA, and certainly gave “lists” a run for its money. It might be an easy way to quickly identify a secondary character, but it’s a lot more common in books than red hair actually is!

© Joëlle Anthony, 2007
Originally published in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin, July/Aug. 2007