What are some upcoming trends?

I think there is a greater emphasis on unique and authentic concepts and voices than ever. Today, the trends are fresh ideas, characters, and plotting. Discoverability is a huge obstacle, so the more marketing hooks publishers can use to help readers find your book, the better.

There is a growing demand for “own voices”: the words, dreams, thoughts, and experiences of creators who have historically been marginalized and ignored. “Own voices” is not a trend but publishing catching up to the kaleidoscope of society and recognizing that all readers need to see themselves, and people different from themselves, in books.

Lastly, the world is more visual than ever, and that reality has resulted in a plethora of formats, interactivity, and illustration in books for all ages.

What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?

Jill Corcoran Literary Agency’s strength is in children’s books, but with the recent addition of six agents, we are expanding to adult books. We are looking for author/illustrators for picture books, middle-grade, and graphic novels. We are keenly looking for middle-grade, young-adult, and adult authors who can develop compelling concepts and pair page-turning plots with literary/commercial writing.

What do you want to change about publishing?

I would love to eliminate the new normal that everything should be free. Now that readers can find books, articles, comics, etc., for free or nearly free, and even traditionally published e-books can be found for a low-price special, creators are fighting to make a living. The old saying, “nothing in life is free” seems to be blind to artists, writers, photographers, editors, art directors, etc., trying to work for a living.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am often asked what makes a book sell to a publisher and sell-through to readers.

It is not how fabulous your website or blog is. It is not how many Facebook or Twitter friends you have or how many publishing links you 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!

We have all heard that great writing will rise to the top and find its way. Yet we know that not all great writing sells. But couple great writing with an original and compelling concept and you are 75 percent there. The rest is luck, timing, bizarre unknown factors that none of us understand but we kill ourselves trying to, and kismet.

So, my advice to writers, other than the all-important learn your craft:

  1. Brainstorm concepts and pitches before you commit to a new book.
  1. Find the manuscript voice you want to work with. This is not Author Voice—Author Voice is your unique voice that permeates all your work—this is the Manuscript Voice, the tone you want to tell this particular story in.
  1. Be absolutely mindful of every character you choose to put in the book. Why are they there? How do they move the story forward? What is interesting about them that will make a reader care about following them from page to page to page?
  1. Plot the heck out of the book. If you are a [seat-of the-] pantser (as opposed to an outliner), no problem. Just make sure you go back through one full revision with the plot in the forefront of your mind asking: how can I make this book un-put-down-able?

Jill Corcoran is president and founder of Jill Corcoran Literary Agency. After earning an English degree from Stanford University and a marketing and finance MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, Jill marketed everything from Disney toys to Kellogg’s cereal to sneakers. She worked for Mattel, LA Gear, Leo Burnett advertising, and her own company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing.