What are some upcoming trends?
It’s impossible to predict trends and often quite useless: Every genre will always be in demand by certain readers. One not-genre-specific trend I’ve been noticing (and loving!) is an increase in published books incorporating some other medium into the storytelling, whether that be illustrations, photographs, bar codes for digital content, etc. Books like Night Film (2013) by Marissa Pessl or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2013) by Ransom Riggs are great examples of what is possible in fiction. Comic books are now a bigger part of mainstream culture than ever before, and I think that visual style of storytelling is bleeding into other forms of fiction.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
For adult books, I really like literary fiction that includes a touch of genre. Magical realism is one of my favorite categories, and contemporary fiction with a hint of fantasy or horror can create excellent stories. I’d love to see anything that has a similar feel to Of Bees and Mist (2009) by Erick Setiawan, The Golem and the Jinni (2014) by Helene Wecker, The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern or Bellman and Black (2013) by Diane Setterfield.
When it comes to children’s books, I like YA fiction with unusual characters who have quirky interests, such as Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (2013) or Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour (2011). I’d love to see more books that focus on friendship rather than romantic relationships, like Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone (2014). With middle grade, I like unusual storytelling formats—as in the one-floor-per-chapter structure of Sideways Stories from Wayside School (1978) by Louis Sachar—and something that feels like a classic; my personal favorites are The BFG (1982) by Roald Dahl and Watership Down (1972) by Richard Adams. I’m also an unapologetic fan of fairy-tale retellings, so I’m looking for something along the lines of The School of Good and Evil (2013) by Soman Chainini or The Land of Stories (2012) by Chris Colfer.
I’d also love to see more queries from writers for pop culture and lifestyle nonfiction.
What topic don't you ever want to see again?
In middle grade, I’m tired of seeing fantasy stories where the main character enters a portal into another world. It has been done time and time again, and most submissions I see in this category follow a similar plot structure. It has certainly worked in the past, but I’m more interested in finding something that has a great spin on the fantasy genre rather than something that follows all the usual tropes. I’m not interested in paranormal or dystopian submissions for YA right now, and yet I think about half of the submissions I receive for YA are in those genres. In general, it’s disheartening when writers decide to write a topic or genre based on trends. When too many writers are writing about the same thing, every submission looks the same.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
The role of the literary agent is constantly changing. It’s an exciting time to be an agent because we get to work on so many different things. It’s a variety of roles in the publishing industry combined into one. We’re lucky to have the opportunity to work with writers from the very beginnings of their careers and watch them grow.
Maria Vicente is an associate agent at P.S. Literary Agency. She is a creative and editorial agent, providing support to her clients through all stages of the writing and publication process. She is actively looking for literary fiction, YA, middle grade, illustrated picture books, and nonfiction projects in the pop culture, design and lifestyle categories. She has affinities for literary prose, strong character development and original storytelling formats. Her literary blog, ibelieveinstory.com, features book reviews and lifestyle posts inspired by literature. Her website, mariavicente.com, includes articles about publishing and writing for current and potential clients.