What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
One upcoming trend I see is more interest in works that use text and illustration to tell a rich, layered story in unusual formats or for a new readership. (A recent article in the Wall Street Journal referenced the way publishers are targeting female readers in the next generation of graphic novels.) Some examples are Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Cece Bell’s El Deafo[a finalist for the 2014 Kirkus Prize], Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce’s forthcoming Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures. Via Tumblr, Stiefvater also shares storyboards, photos and even tarot cards to enhance the readers’ experience of her YA saga The Raven Cycle. I believe there’s room for all sorts of creative innovation and an opportunity in the market for a return to physical books as a luxury item or beautiful object, which will differentiate them from digital and justify a higher price point.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I gravitate to things that surprise me or feel unexpected, such as works that draw on existing literary traditions and mythos and reimagine them as something completely, captivatingly new. Some fine examples of this are Sarah Cross’ Kill Me Softly and Tear You Apart, which use the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm to create a seductive, dark mythology about the Märchen, or marked, in which teens navigate their paths—as cursed or honor-bound—through their dangerous world. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races reimagines the Celtic legend of the water horse as shockingly, violently beautiful, grounded in a place so real I’m convinced it must exist. I have a soft spot for effortlessly masterful novels with idiosyncratic voices, like Hilary Smith’s forthcoming A Sense of the Infinite, Andrew Smith’s Winger and Catherine Ryan Hyde’s When I Found You. I also love narrative risk takers who play with genre or commercial tropes to ask big questions and unravel important mysteries of the human heart, such as Ellen Hopkins’ Crank, Rumble, and Triangles; Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why; Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Kimberly Derting’s The Taking series; and Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I never say never. I’ve had situations where the topic isn’t something I think will move me, and I’m riveted. To me, it’s all about execution.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I love the breadth of working in children’s books, in YA and in adult fiction. I, and others at my agency, also work with some clients on the digital and self-publishing side. I represent authors like the New York Times and digital best-selling Catherine Ryan Hyde, who has found a significant new readership as a result of a hybrid career. Working in these different arenas gives me an unusual perspective on the market, the chance to use outside-the-box thinking acquired by viewing things through so many different filters, and an opportunity to strategize more globally about an author’s career…and it’s wonderfully exhilarating.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Support the business you want to be a part of. Buy books; hear favorite and new authors; invite authors to your schools. Join organizations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that support authors and create networks within the larger publishing community, and seek out opportunities, like the authors who created We Need Diverse Books, to be a meaningful voice in the industry dialogues that shape the future.
Laura Rennert, executive agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has been with the agency since 1998. A literary omnivore, she specializes in all categories of children’s books, from picture books to young adult, upmarket fiction and narrative nonfiction. She represents award-winning and best-selling authors, including No. 1 New York Times best-sellers Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher and Lauren Kate; No. 1 NYT best-seller and Printz Honor finalist Maggie Stiefvater; NYT best-seller and No. 1 digital best-seller Catherine Ryan Hyde; and National Book Award finalist Kathleen Duey, as well as brand-new, first-time authors. She’s the author of a picture book, Buying, Training and Caring for Your Dinosaur (illustrated by Marc Brown, the creator of Arthur), and the author of a chapter book, Royal Princess Academy: Dragon Dreams (illustrated by Melanie Florian).