What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I wouldn’t so much call this a trend, as I prefer to think of it as the continued evolution of YA (my little corner of the industry), but right now we’re seeing such a big push for diverse books. Representation is becoming more a question of “why not?” than “why?” Why wouldn’t you want a book to accurately mirror such a diverse readership? I’m thrilled, and I think the next step is representation in genres that, with some exceptions, we haven’t seen. For example, in the past, LGBTQ characters in YA were confined mainly to coming-out stories, and while those are lovely and important, I think LGBTQ characters are now able to take their places in fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, and beyond. At least, I really believe this is the direction we’re headed.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I love books that straddle genres: historical horror, sci-fi romance, paranormal mystery—all are welcome. I’d love to see more magical realism that uses fantastical elements to address literary themes. I always love more complicated female relationships across all genres, be the characters sisters, friends, girlfriends, mother and daughter, etc. I do like romantic relationships but generally as part of a bigger storyline, a bigger quest for identity, with more at stake than “will they/won’t they.” And I’m always looking for books like that.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Hmm, it’s hard to answer this without throwing shade at successful authors, and anyway, I wouldn’t like to rule anything out permanently. I’ve genuinely loved some “16-year-old Gwen finds out that she’s secretly Magical Being X with powers upon which the whole world is depending” books, but I’m not very interested in representing them. Unless they involve a truly interesting twist or are built upon a really fantastic and relatable human core….See? Never say never.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I represent YA and middle-grade, and I think the ongoing conversation about for whom those genres are intended is fascinating, particularly with the former. There are YA books marketed to cross over into adult territory; YA books like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, where the college-age characters could technically qualify as new-adult; and books with 15-year-old protagonists firmly marketed as adult, like Sandra Newman’s The Country of Ice Cream Star. It’s all very fluid these days.
Some people staunchly believe that young-adult books are for teens only. Furthermore, some believe YA books are stunting to adult readers—and those conversations can get pretty vicious. I do believe that YA authors primarily have a responsibility to teen readers. In the Young Adult Library Service Association’s statement on “The Value of Young Adult Literature,” they say: “[W]hether one defines young adult literature narrowly or broadly, much of its value cannot be quantified but is to be found in how it addresses the needs of its readers….[T]hese needs recognize that young adults are beings in evolution, in search of self and identity; beings who are constantly growing and changing, morphing from the condition of childhood to that of adulthood.…By addressing these needs, young adult literature is made valuable not only by its artistry but also by its relevance to the lives of its readers.” I staunchly agree that authors should first and foremost keep those needs in mind.
But that doesn’t mean that adults have nothing to gain by reading these books or should ever be discouraged from doing so. On the basis of artistry alone, there are stunning and wildly intelligent YA novels being published daily. And besides, aren’t “grown-ups” evolving, in search of self and identity, constantly growing and changing? Shouldn’t we be?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just in general, some advice for writers: we can talk endlessly about trends in publishing, which genres are selling and which are dead in the water, whether we’re looking for the next Suzanne Collins or the next John Green. And I’m not one who believes it’s harmful for authors to be aware of the industry they’re entering into or that it somehow taints artistry. But you can drive yourself crazy trying to write to the trends. By the time you finish your perfect dystopian, editors have moved on to contemporary. By the time you’ve finished a contemporary, we’re on to magical realism. Instead of worrying so much about fads in the industry, pay attention to the ways in which it’s evolving; for instance, the call for diverse voices and characters will only grow stronger, as it should, and aspiring authors would be wise to answer.
Rebecca Podosis a middle-grade and YA Agent at the Rees Literary Agency in Boston. A graduate of the writing, literature, and publishing MFA program at Emerson College, her debut YA novel, The Mystery of Hollow Places,is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray in January 2016. She is particularly interested in books about complex female relationships, beautifully written contemporary, genre novels with a strong focus on character, and LGBTQ books across all genres.