Thursday, April 21, 2011


There is not a conference, a twitter chat, a message board where I do not hear, "what do you see as the next trend? or "has the shipped sailed for my WIP dystopian YA/nerdy boy with illustrations MG/girlielicious picture book?" Trends, trends, they influence who this agent chooses to represent and what I send out on submission? (I only speak for myself but I never find my views alone at a party.)

Yes, if your WIP is just 'another one'. If you have not been reading what is out there that competes with your book for whatever reason---you don't have the time/you don't want to be influenced/you find them all boring and that is why you are writing the best dystopian/nerdy boy/girlielicious book the world has ever read--then you may not know that yours is just like everything that has already been published. Yes--I'm NOT interested.

But, what if your dystopian/nerdy boy/girlielicious book truly is outstanding. What if it entrances me with a new twist, thwacks me over the head with an unforgettable voice, befriends me with a must-stay-up-all-night-because-I-cannot-bear-to leave your characters cast? Heck, yes--send me that full and if the entire manuscript sings like those first 10 pages you sent with your query...Yes, I'm going to sign you and sub your work.

Do I favor trendsetting books? And we are only talking trendsetting and brilliantly written since we all know a trendsetting idea does not make a book. Heck, ya, again!

BUT, how do I know if a book is a trendsetter at the manuscript stage? Well, no one knows if a book is trendsetting until it publishes, sells like hotcakes and the copycats start flooding the market. Hopefully that first trendsetting book is noted as the trendsetter, but it might be a different book that gets the glory. Let's face it, life like publishing is unpredictable and not always fair.

So am I really looking for trendsetting? Just like you, I am making a prediction. Based on an amazing voice, phenomenal writing, blow-away plot/characters/setting...I am predicting that your historical novel in verse told from six points of view is going to sell. With this one, I predicted correctly and Sherry Shahan's PURPLE DAZE became the first book I ever sold and pubbed with stellar reviews this month.

So what do you do? What do I do to help guide my clients and to keep choosing the best ones to represent? I trust my gut and I take a chance. And that, writers, is what you have to do too.

Remember, not every book sold goes to auction. Many, many books are turned down as too out-there or too-like-everything-else, and then go on to sell to the perfect editor who works with the writer to create a wonderful book that goes on to sell, and sell, and sell....and sometimes that book is proclaimed a 'trendsetter'.

Here is a list of what I have sold so far....can you recognize the next big thing? The next trend?

Young Adult

Denise Lewis Patrick’s LIFE GETS TWISTED pitched as the THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET  twisted with the Southern African-American experience unearthing the raw reality of prejudice, courage, perseverance and love to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab.

Robin Mellom's BUSTED, a companion novel to DITCHED, in which a girl takes a job running errands for an eccentric couple and finds herself involved in the crazy world of LA nightlife but after a misunderstanding lands her in jail, she has one fateful night to clear her name, help a rising movie starlet avoid the paparazzi and find Adam, the coworker who is quickly stealing her heart, to Christian Trimmerat Disney-Hyperion, for publication in Winter 2013.

Janet Gurtler's JUST BREATHE, in which a girl struggles with boy problems and serious regret after accidentally killing a boy she barely knows when she kisses him after consuming a peanut butter sandwich, not aware he has a deathly allergy to peanuts, to Leah Hultenschmidt at Sourcebooks Fire

Beck McDowell’s debut THIS IS NOT A DRILL, a thriller told from alternating viewpoints of two teens who must protect kindergarteners from a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder who opens fire in the classroom to Nancy Paulsen of Nancy Paulsen Books at Penguin Young Readers, for publication in Fall 2012. 

Martha Brockenbrough’s YA debut DEVINE INTERVENTION to Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in which a guardian angel in a rehabilitation program for wayward souls accidentally kills the girl he's supposed to watch over, fails to get her into heaven, and may or may not cause lasting psychological damage to a squirrel. 

Laura Ellen's debut BLIND SPOTan edgy murder mystery romance that explores what happens to a good girl whose simple wish of fitting in and attracting, then keeping, the hottest guy in her school, compels her to make way too many wrong choices, to Karen Grove at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's, for publication in Fall 2012.

Six-time RWA Golden Heart finalist Shelley Coriell's debut WELCOME CALLER, THIS IS CHLOEpitched as THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets WKRP IN CINCINNATI in which an ex-popular girl, forced to join the misfit staff of her high school’s struggling radio station, dispenses relationship advice on a late night call-in show only to find she has a lot to learn about love, loneliness, and lasting friendships to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet Books/Abrams, for publication in Spring 2012.

Kelly Milner Halls, eds.'s GIRL MEETS BOY, twelve original "he said/she said" paired stories written just for this collection by Joseph Bruchac, Chris Cruther, Terry Davis, Rebecca Fjelland Davis, Kelly Milner Halls, James Howe, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Randy Powell, Sara Ryan, Terry Trueman, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Ellen Wittlinger, to Kelli Chipponeri at Chronicle, for publication in Spring 2012.

Janet Gurtler's ALL THAT JAZ (renamed IF I TELL)about a teenager who survives and even thrives in a small-minded town as the mistaken product of an African American football player and his 16 year old blond princess, until she makes a huge mistake of her own, to Leah Hultenschmidt at Sourcebooks, for publication in Fall 2011.

Julie Williams's IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, pitched as a La Cage aux Folles-inspired YA, about a girl genius who must thwart her unconventional family's demise in which her mother, her father, and her father's new boyfriend, all live under the same roof, while dealing with her Jehovah's Witness grandmother's prediction of the end of the world, to Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook Press, in a pre-empt, for publication in Spring 2012 .

Martha Brockenbrough's YA debut 10 COMMANDMENTS FOR THE DEAD to Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in which a guardian angel in a rehabilitation program for wayward souls accidentally kills the girl he's supposed to watch over, fails to get her into heaven, and may or may not cause lasting psychological damage to a squirrel. 

Robin Mellom's debut DITCHED, pitched as THE HANGOVER for teens, in which a girl finds herself lying in a ditch the morning after her prom with no memory of the last twelve hours which includes a disappearing prom date, a Tinkerbell tattoo, and a dog-swapping escapade, to Christian Trimmer at Disney-Hyperion, in a very nice deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in Winter 2012.

Ralph Fletcher's AKA ROWAN POHI, in which a 16-year old boy assumes a new identity in a desperate attempt to shed one life and create another, to Dinah Stevenson at Clarion, for publication in Fall 2011

Sherry Shahan's PURPLE DAZE, a provocative free verse novel set 1965 Los Angeles in which six high school students navigate war, riots, love, rock 'n' roll, school, and friendship, to Kelli Chipponeri at Running Press Kids, for publication in Spring 2011. 


Janet Gurtler's THE WEIGHT OF BONES (renamed I'M NOT HER), a twist on MY SISTER'S KEEPER for teens, in which a brainy high school freshman embraces yet resents the shadow of her beautiful, popular, volleyball-scholarship-bound sister, but when the senior is diagnosed with bone cancer, it drastically changes both sisters' lives, to Sourcebooks Fire for publication in Spring 2011.

Middle Grade 

Robin Mellom's THE CLASSROOM, pitched as MODERN FAMILY for middle graders, in which a documentary crew descends on Westside Middle School to chronicle the life of a seventh grader and epic worrier, and his classmates, to Christian Trimmer at Disney-Hyperion, in a six-figure deal, in a 4-book deal, for publication in Summer 2012.

Sherry Shahan's ICE ISLAND, in which a 12-year-old girl who dreams of competing in the grueling 1,049-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets lost during a training run in the untamed Alaskan wilderness during a freak snow storm, to Michelle Poploff at Delacorte.

Ralph Fletcher's TEN THINGS EVERY GUY WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING, the first in a series of humorous how-to-write books for middle-graders, to Christy Ottaviano at Christy Ottaviano Books. 

Anastasia Suen's chapter book series, to Kira Lynn at Kane Miller Books, in a four-book deal, for publication in Fall 2011.

Anastasia Suen writing for Boxcar Children, THE ZOMBIE PROJECT, Albert Whitman.

Erin Fry’s FAT BOY, in which a 13-year old obese teenager, tired of his life of XXL t-shirts and unrequited crushes, and reeling from his father's recent stroke, joins the cross country team to find out if there's more to life than French fries, to Marilyn Brigham at Marshall Cavendish, for publication in Fall 2012.


International plot consultant Martha Alderson's THE PLOT WHISPERER, in which the author shares her award-winning tips, techniques and multi-sensory approach to plot and the secrets to success for her clientele of best-selling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors, to Paula Munier at Adams Media, for publication in Fall 2011.


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