What are some trends you noticed in 2014?
2014 was certainly the year of John Green–inspired contemporary fiction in the YA sphere—maybe someone needs to coin an adjective in that regard? Johngreenian? Johngreenesque? With the market having been saturated with paranormal and dystopian offerings in preceding years, both editors and agents were eager to take on projects with contemporary themes and sophisticated voices much closer to adult crossover. YA mysteries and thrillers were particularly in demand as well. And of course, there was a heightened push for enhancing diversity in YA voices, which I think will bear fruit in the years to come. In adult fiction, urban fantasy was terribly difficult to sell to the larger houses, which was especially disappointing to those of us who live and die by the Dresden Files.
What are you anticipating for 2015?
I wish my skills were at such a level as to allow me to anticipate trends, but alas, I can only speak to what I hope to see. My hope is that the pendulum will swing back to contemporary fantasy and, dare I say it, even a little touch of paranormal this year. No one’s asking for vampires or zombies, but I think many of us miss the magic. I think we already saw a glimmer of this return toward the end of 2014, with the push toward magical realism and high-concept fantasy.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I adore mysteries, particularly when they come with a speculative twist. I also love Middle Eastern and Eastern European settings, niche subculture stories—especially when things like tattoos, graffiti, or urban exploration are involved, maybe all of these at once—and female-driven psychological thrillers and historical fantasy. I’d love to see a serious story involving mail-order brides, either YA or adult. In addition, my go-to wish list includes a YA Outlander (1992) and some lush, sensual fantasy of the Kushiel’s Avatar (2004) persuasion.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’ve had my fill of stories involving enchanted amulets and lockets, leprechauns, elves, alien invasions, Hitler’s secret children/grandchildren/other relatives, incest, child abuse, or any combination of the above. I’m not being flippant here, either. I’ve seen many permutations involving more than one of these, and while I acknowledge the importance of delving into the latter two weighty topics, I have a hard time reading these books and am generally not the right person to champion them.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I’m primarily YA-focused, and I love the openness of the YA community—it’s extremely warm and collaborative, and I’ve found that editors tend to be especially welcoming to new agents. Author forums and groups are very supportive and tightly knit as well. I’m sure this isn’t unique to YA, but it seems to me a bit more prominent than in the adult literary fiction world. I also love that YA books are able to really push the envelope on sensitive and important topics without becoming overwrought or navel-gazing.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I sometimes have the sense that there’s a bit of a disconnect between what editors and agents look for in YA and what actual young-adult readers want to read; I fear that we’re approaching a point at which Young Adult will be indistinguishable from Young Adult/crossover. Given the popularity of social media in the YA age range—as well as platforms like Wattpad and Goodreads—my hope is that we’ll have more of a compass in the future to guide us toward what young adults really want to see in the instances in which this diverges from what we, as the adult gatekeepers and curators of such books, want to read.
Lana Popovic holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from Yale University, a Juris Doctor from the Boston University School of Law, where she focused on intellectual property, and an master’s degree with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing Program. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman, Lana worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built a list of YA and adult literary authors while managing foreign rights for the agency. Lana’s clients include Brittany Cavallaro (A Study in Charlotte, forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins), Leah Thomas (Because You’ll Never Meet Me, forthcoming from Bloomsbury), Rebecca Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places, forthcoming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), and Marie Jaskulka (The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy, forthcoming from Skyhorse).