Before I go into what I am looking for I want to talk about what makes a book sell.
It is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.
What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!
You have heard that great writing will rise to the top and find its way. Yet we all know that not all great writing sells. There is marketing and sales to contend with, and even in my 2 short years of being an agent I have had quite a number of books that editors loved and sales and marketing told them that it would sell, but just not enough....and the books are still not published. Breaks my heart. Breaks the editors' hearts. And oh, the author. So very unfair. BUT, publishing is a business and fair is not the leading part of the equation here.
But couple GREAT WRITING with an ORIGINAL AND COMPELLING CONCEPT and you are 75% there. The rest is luck, timing, bizarre unknown factors that none of us understand but we kill ourselves trying to, and kismet. When HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, WIMPY KID, 13 REASONS WHY, etc were brought to acquisitions meetings and given the green light, publishers made an educated guess that these books would sell. They make those educated guesses on other books (and in some cases pay big advances and pump marketing dollars into them) that are equally fantastic but for some mysterious reason never find their audience. I worked in marketing for a couple of decades and this is just how it goes. What made the Pet Rock, Silly Bands, Chia Pets, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear Soap, etc sell? Don't know.
Is it all word of mouth? Is it superior product--maybe yes in books, but in Pet Rocks? What do you think?
What I am looking for is based on what I personally gravitate to mashed up with what editors have told me they are looking for. Please know this is not the same list that every agent will want, nor every editor. Every agent is different, and that is why it is so impt to do your research to find the right agent for you.
WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR updated July 2011:
YOUNG ADULT & MIDDLE GRADE
-THRILLERS-up the stakes and make me unable to put down the book until I know that everyone is OK, or not.
I am NOT talking about Boxing Helena or Shutter Island, as I am a huge chicken and will have nightmares. I am talking more CSI and Law & Order, Die Hard and Armageddon (yes, I am a Bruce Willis fan), Men in Black and Independence Day (and a huge Will Smith fan). Thrillers are cinematic. As I read I want the movie playing in my head.
-ROMANTIC YA-Contemporary, mystery, paranormal, historical, scifi, ROMANTIC COMEDIES...doesn't matter---it is about characters--soul-searching, groin-yearning, heart thumping, heart breaking, fast paced, laughout loud, cry out loud, make me want to be your character ROMANCE!
BTW, I want my romance from the GIRL's POV. I have amazing male writers who are writing romance and YA from the male POV so I am looking more for girl povs.
-Original/Out of the box PARANORMAL MG & YA that keeps me at the edge of my seat and has a fantastic payoff at the end.
-Upper MIDDLE GRADE that captures the reality of Middle School with an intriguing plot + authentic emotion. 7th & 8th grade = hormonal roller coaster where kids strive to be independent yet are still such babes in the woods.
-Younger MG-FUNNY BOY & GIRL illustratable for 3rd-5th grade be it b/w line art all the way to graphic novel. I'm talking IVY & BEAN, CLEMENTINE, FANGBONE (new from Michael Rex), BIG NATE, LUNCH LADY.
-COMING OF AGE GIRL MG & YA with commercial hook and beautiful writing. School stories, sibling stories, friendship stories but with something fresh and NOT QUIET.
-MG ADVENTURE that is not episodic and where the main character is as imperative to the story as the action. A character who readers will want to follow into the clutches of death and back again.
-Regarding picture books, I am so, so very picky that I don't even have an actual want list on this. I would say very short...max 700 words, prefer 500 or less.
-Look at our agency website, we rep some of the top pb author/illustrators, illustrators and authors in the world, so your book has to be better than that!
LIST OF RECENT DEALS--a few more will be listed in the next couple of weeks:)
BTW, when I say I want something fresh/out of the box/original, I mean that you should know what is out on the market and make yours different. None of us have the time to read every book but you sure can do some research to see if yours is truly original. RESEARCHING COMP BOOKS