What are some upcoming trends for 2016?
Branded and successful self-published authors who are ready for the leap to traditional publishing houses. In my personal opinion as an author and an agent, the industry has been in such flux over the past decade with the onslaught of indie works and new authors who haven’t been vetted through traditional channels that it’s nearly impossible to predict what will hit next. But if you look at what’s happening in the social landscape around us, I suspect in the areas of nonfiction we will continue to see more memoirs, more celebrity-driven biographical tell-alls, more books about the problems with our modern-day society, and more politically fueledand outrageous books.
In fiction, I’m sure there will be no shortage of dystopian novels, thanks to the continued success of Game of Thrones, and, of course, fantastical fiction—à la [Harry] Potter....Much of what spills over into the fiction genre is fueled by what’s popular on other media, such as cable, television, and the internet.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Extremely well-written literary fiction drawing together the elements of an edgy plot, a true mastery of the English language, and a penchant for surprise. Currently, I represent a highly regarded author who’s captured most of that. The problem is placing his work. It’s so literary that it’s off-putting to many mainstream publishing houses. I believe this is the role of niche and boutique publishers: to take a chance on an author who truly is an author—not simply a writer.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
That’s a loaded question. There’s a lot I'd never like to see again. Rather than pick apart genres, it’s better to focus on what I believe is sorely lacking in the submissions we get: great writing. It really has more to do with style and command of the language more than anything else. For instance, if I could eliminate 90 percent of all of the forms of the verb “to be” from every manuscript I read, I’d feel like I made a positive impact in this publishing industry. And readers would thank me. Much of the fiction that we see coming over the transom is long-form synopsis writing—dull and lifeless despite strong plots.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
We specialize in hands-on, personalized agenting. We work very closely with our authors, from the editing process to proposal perfecting, and we even include them in the discussion about where we are pitching their works. It’s a collaborative venture and a personal journey. For authors who are putting their works in our hands, we like to give it our all. In that respect, we know that there are plenty of other publishing options out there—from self-publishing to vanity presses to hybrids. It’s very gratifying for us to place a book with the right publisher. Our commitment doesn’t end with placement, either. And we continue to work hand in glove and provide help and input for our authors throughout their careers.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think self-publishing is the best thing to happen to this industry. It’s blown off the doors, forced change, and ushered in a new era.
Lenore Skomal is a relatively new agent with Whimsy Literary Agency in New York City, coming into the field from the other side of the industry. She’s a former journalist, author of 16 books, public speaker, and new playwright.