I hate to predict trends! Whatever predictions you make, you can be sure the market will surprise you, and at Skylark Literary, we never look to chase a trend. We want books and authors that are fresh and innovative and have something new to offer. Publishing generally works with long lead times, so it’s never a good idea to jump on a bandwagon—no matter how successful that bandwagon looks—because by the time the book is published, the market will probably have moved on. If you focus on great writing and great stories, then you can be sure the books will always be on trend.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
At Skylark Literary, we’re very happy to see almost any topic or genre providing the writing is terrific. Personally, more than anything else, I look for a distinctive voice that feels real and vivid and engaging—think [Becky Albertalli’s] Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or [E. Lockhart’s] We Were Liars. Beyond that, I love a really great story with exciting twists and turns, and I adore a great mystery! Something myth or fairy-tale inspired—with a little bit of magic mixed into the real world—is always very welcome too, provided it’s been done cleverly. The Dark is Rising [by Susan Cooper] is one of my all-time favorites, as is Fire and Hemlock by the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones, and I am always on the lookout for the next Neil Gaiman. I’m fascinated by good speculative fiction, too, so, as you can see, I like to cast my net wide! Basically, I like clever ideas and innovation that make you see the world in new ways—either through clever creativity and worldbuilding or psychologically through brilliant characterization.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
There really isn’t anything I’d rule out, because even a topic that sounds clichéd or derivative on the face of it can be transformed by brilliant writing. Having said that, if you’re writing anything dystopian or vampire- or werewolf-related at the moment, then your writing really would have to be superstandout!
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
We specialize in children’s and YA fiction, from early chapter books right through to young-adult/crossover novels. It’s a really exciting area of the market because it’s growing and it’s not so split by genre as, for example, adult fiction—meaning that we get to work across a huge variety of stories. Joanna [Moult] (co-founder of Skylark Literary) and I are both former editors for major trade publishing houses. This experience of having worked on both sides of the publisher/agent fence means we have a unique insight into what publishers need, coupled with the editorial skills to polish manuscripts before we send them out—which all helps when it comes to selling our authors’ books. And it means we have great contacts, too! Many of the editors to whom we send manuscripts are our former colleagues and remain our good friends.
Amber Caravéo is the director and co-founder of Surrey, England–based Skylark Literary, a boutique literary agency specializing in children’s and YA fiction. Between them, she and co-founder Joanna Moult have more than 25 years of experience in the children’s publishing industry working for major trade publishers. They set up Skylark Literary out of a passion for providing great author care. The company prides itself on championing talented authors, from guiding their fledgling first steps to supporting their high-flying literary careers. Skylark Literary is open to submissions. You can follow Amber on Twitter.