What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I think we are due to represent and publish more socially conscious literature, books that delve deeper into the human stories behind the news. To that end, I think we will also see more speculative fiction, across YA and adult, imagining where we go from here. I think they will address questions of the balance of powers in the government, the replacement of the human work force with automation, immigration, and the many other elements of modern society that are revealing themselves as imperfect, with unknown and potentially scary futures.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I want to see debut literary fiction by new talents with distinct voices and a specific story to tell. My two favorite novels last year were [Imbolo Mbue’s] Behold the Dreamers and [Brit Bennett’s] The Mothers. Both were by debut authors with strong and unique voices who created accessible and fun-to-read novels while managing to address important topics and characters and plots that make you think, both about the world of the novel and your own world. That is what I want to see.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t want to see the autobiographical first novel about the disillusionment of youth, about the first major friendship/love/tragedy at summer camp/high school/college/first job. I like coming-of-age stories, but I have tired of these very similar storylines in debut novels. It seems like young, talented writers can and should push themselves to tell a different kind of story than their own.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
As agents, we are the first line of defense in new trends and have to know what readers want before they know it’s what they want. It is a lot of pressure! We also have the distinct privilege of fostering new talent and helping authors shape their careers. There is nothing more rewarding than finding a debut author an editor who totally gets him/her and watching readers find and love his or her work. Our job is important but fun, and I love it!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Despite all of the doomsday predictions this industry sees year on year, on my end I continue to see great new writers and books coming across my desk, fabulous books being published, unparalleled successes for both established and new writers, and a public continuing to read. It’s not all rosy, but we are doing all right.
Jesseca Salky is a partner and literary agent at Hannigan Salky Getzler (HSG) Agency. She has been an agent for over a decade and in the publishing industry even longer. She got her start at Random House and spent her formative years as an agent at the boutique literary agency Russell & Volkening. Jesseca represents New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anne Tyler, whose 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Jesseca received her J.D. from Fordham Law School and, in addition to being an agent, does legal work for authors, publishers, agents, and other publishing industry professionals who need a legal perspective.