What are some upcoming trends for 2016?
Let me preface this with: I don’t like trends. I don’t believe in following them. They are gone too soon to catch up to. Writers who follow trends often flounder because they are not writing where their true talents lie. To that end, I do think there are genres that are making a comeback and that there are always themes within genres that will tend to peak now and again. I do think the end of 2016 will see more romantic suspense, which I love and am actively seeking. Women’s fiction with a magical realism feel is also on the horizon, and that excites me because I’m all about seeing more WF hit the market.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to see a middle-grade novel with a very smart female protagonist who is relying on her brain, rather than magic or a gift, to overcome obstacles. The conflict would be relatable, something that touches on the real fears of a child dealing with life-changing events. An added bonus would be the inclusion of diversity—but written from a point of real experience, because adding diversity without that will never ring true. Something with the heart and realism of R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and the cultural diversity of Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t want to ever say never, because there is always that exception to every rule. However, I am tired of projects where a character isn’t interesting until something big happens to them. Why do so many young-adult queries I get have their protagonist start as “just an ordinary teen”? I don’t actually think there are any ordinary teens out there—everyone is unique. Making a character drab so they can evolve into someone more exciting once something unexpected happens to them will always feel forced. So maybe I never want to see forced evolution again. That would apply to any genre.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I have the privilege of representing a great many romance authors, and I see that genre is really embracing change because the self-publishing industry has proven that readers want something beyond the tried and true. So that means publishers are also becoming more open to LGBT romance, multicultural romance, books that have characters who aren’t always heroic all the way through. Yes, there is always a happily ever after—it’s not a romance without the HEA—but the journey to that ending can now be much more complicated and reflective of real life. It’s an exciting time for the genre, and I’m eager to embrace new and exceptional stories.
How are you working with self-published authors?
Several of my clients are hybrid authors. I am representing their traditional material, and they are taking care of their self-published material on their own. They do keep me informed of what’s going on with that self-pub project so we’re not working at cross purposes on anything.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I really urge writers to have a plan for their career before they start looking for an agent. I receive numerous queries from authors who have self-published their book but really want a print deal, and at that point there’s rarely anything I can do to help them. If self-publishing is the goal, then go forth and make it happen. But if the end result is wanting to be traditionally published, shop for the perfect agent who can help get the desired deal.
A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa Jeglinski began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008. With over two decades of experience in the publishing industry, she has fostered her clients to national prominence, including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Association of Authors’ Representatives. She is currently seeking projects in the following areas: romance (contemporary, category, historical, and inspirational), young adult, middle grade, women’s fiction, and mystery.