Thanks to the fabulous writers at YA-5 for inviting me as a guest today! It's so cool to be here!
Since we're barreling toward the end of the year, it puts me in the mood to reflect. *sips eggnog*
I've read some absolutely stunning YA novels this year. It's ironic - when I started working at the Nelson Literary Agency in 2006, I was an avid science fiction, fantasy, commercial fiction and romance reader. But, I hadn't ever shopped in the YA section of the bookstore. When I joined the company, I started reading to "catch up" and "learn the marketplace." Holy cow was I impressed! And I still am - YA authors are creating brilliant new worlds, complex emotional and social commentary and vivid characters in a way that has really captured my imagination and my heart. Way to go! If you write YA novels, keep it up! I love reviewing these projects and I am actively acquiring new clients (see submission guidelines at www.nelsonagency.com)
So, here it is - the Happy New Years List of favorite novels for the year:
ASH by Malinda Lo is my absolute favorite read in 2010! I am a stark, raving, lunatic fan of this book. I couldn't put it down and am considering an ASH tattoo somewhere on my body (just kidding) (sort of)
These are my other absolute-love favorites this year:
THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger
GIRL PARTS by John M Cusick
A LOVE STORY STARRING MY BEST DEAD FRIEND by Emily Horner
WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan
RULES OF ATTRACTION by Simone Elkeles
MATCHED by Ally Condie
As you can tell, I lean slightly more toward the contemporary and realistic voice, but don't worry all you paranormal writers out there - I love that sub genre also!
So, how did I become a literary agent? That's a funny story actually. One *could* say that I started on this journey in 5th grade when I first read THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. That's what hooked me on reading for sure. THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley was another early favorite. As a kid, all I wanted was to play castles, horses, knights and swords.
Fast forward to adult life - I graduated from college in the dot com boom (with a major in Women's Studies and another major in American History) and went plop right in to corporate America. Needless to say in 2001 I lost my job when the company shut down. In 2006, I was job hunting again (after being a full time mom for a while, which I LOVED with a white hot passion!). I met Kristin Nelson and fell in love with her company immediately. Not only is she an amazing literary agent and powerful advocate for books, she has a ton of integrity (something that *cough* was sometimes lacking in corporate). That's my journey - in 2009 I was promoted to Associate Agent and I currently represent 11 fabulous writers (including YA-5's very own Miranda Kenneally, whose debut YA novel SCORE will be out in 2011).
I am so excited about 2011! In addition to seeing my clients' books on the shelves, I also feel like the publishing industry is picking up some steam and leaving behind the doldrums of the past few years. Personally, I think ebooks are helping this momentum. Sure, ebook growth presents challenges, but I also think that more books being read by more readers in more ways can only help, right? The YA market continues to be strong. In fact, I posit that the YA market is driving fiction publishing in a really spectacular way. JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer have paved the way for a generation of people who love book and great stories. So, all we have to do is put those books out there and they are going to be gobbled up and enjoyed. Go us!
As I am an "actively acquiring" agent, people like to ask "what are you looking for?" and the answer is a bit of a cop out - superior writing and a unique concept. But, that's just so true. I don't really care what you write, if you do it well I am interested. Paranormals are still hot and still selling. Retold fairy tales seem to be everywhere right now and that's really interesting to me (especially as a fan of Malinda's ASH and BEAUTY by Robin McKinley). I'm seeing mermaids and unicorns - perchance there are some minotaurs out there too? Dystopian novels are still fresh enough to be unique although I think the peak of buying was last year. And for me, I simply love contemporary or multicultural YA (think Simone Elkeles). Finally, I think if there were an historical YA author out there a la Philippa Gregory for kids, there would be a market for that too. That covers just about everything.
Finally, whether you are a published author or a pre-published writer, I say write, research, network and get your author website up now. Write because you love it. Research smartly (our website, www.nelsonagency.com has a terrific "resources" link). Network with other writers (I personally love twitter, conferences and book signings. I'm @SaraMegibow on twitter). And get a professional, polished website up now. Like...now. It doesn't need to be flashy, but it does need to be professional. Miranda has done a terrific job with hers - check it out at www.mirandakenneally.com.
That's all for now,
Happy writing and Happy New Year!
And thanks again to Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency!