The New Year is a time for resolutions. For writers, these resolutions often involve the refining of craft, being more disciplined about their writing habits, or seeking out publication. While most of us can agree that it’s important to write something you enjoy—if you hated writing it, chances are your audience will hate reading it!—it’s also necessary to understand what literary agents and acquisitions editors are looking for as you start seeking out representation for your work.
Luckily, most agents and editors aren’t quiet about what they want. For example, the folks over at Andrew Lownie Literary Agency have already created a nice list to get you started. The agency contacted over twenty editors, asking each what kind of books they’re looking to acquire in 2014. The Tumblr Agent and Editor Wish List is also a good place to visit. The account administrator reposts tweets from literary agents and agencies all over (so you don’t have to).
When we reached out to Fiona Kenshole, Portland-based literary agent and former editorial director at HarperCollins UK, to talk about 2014 publishing trends, the fantasy genre came up. While Fiona agrees that the trend is catching on again, she also clarified that “It’s still an over-subscribed arena, and I would not want to sell a fallen angel or twist on ancient gods story at the moment.”
So what stories do editors want to purchase this year? Historical novels or memoirs that touch on subjects not often talked about have been mentioned by more than a few editors. According to Fiona, “I’m being asked for distinctive voices—diversity has come up a few times, especially stories by and about people of color.” Editors are also looking for pieces that use humor and wit—books that create a personality that readers can relate to.
Looking at the industry as a whole, if you are looking to pitch a middle grade or children’s book, stories about ghosts and mysteries, or pieces with series potential, you might be in luck. For picture books specifically, character-driven stories come up often, and let’s not forget about the new-adult fiction buzz that’s currently sweeping through publishing houses across the nation and the world.
One caveat to the above: remember that books that editors acquire now probably won’t be published until 2015 at the earliest. When Twilight made vampires sexy and popular again, lots of authors jumped on the bandwagon, hoping to land book deals in a then-booming genre. But by the time these manuscripts were ready to hit the shelves, the trend was already on its way out the door. This is not to say that if you’ve got what you believe is the next big vampire romance bestseller sitting on your computer right now that you should just torch it and start over—far from it. It’s more of a reminder that publishing trends change in the blink of an eye, and you’ve really got to believe in your work and do your research in order to snag an agent or acquisitions editor’s attention, not just follow the big trends and hope for the best.
So let’s have it then: what are your publication plans for 2014?
Sylvia, Sarah, and Melanie (our awesome intern)