What do you think will be trends in publishing in the coming year?
I think we will see more stories that reflect and critique the turbulent times we live in, so political thrillers and dystopian fiction like The Manchurian Candidate and The Handmaid’s Tale will make a comeback. At the same time, we will want to dive into pure escapist reads and demand epic sagas of evil vanquished and love conquering all to make us feel good and give us hope. Or time travel.
That said, I don’t try to follow trends. I look for a good story well told in a unique voice. Writers should just focus on the story they feel compelled to tell and write it the best way they can. Let us agents figure out how to sell it.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
In recent years, we’ve seen some really exciting Asian-inspired fantasy, such as Fonda Lee’s Jade City, R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War, and Julie C. Dao’s Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I hope this wave will continue and expand into other genres, as well.
I’d also like to see more well-researched narrative nonfiction that sheds new light on an old concept or a biography about an important but obscure historical figure or event. Topics I’m especially interested in include history, psychology, medicine, and science. Mary Roach’s Stiff,Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook, and Susan Cain’s Quietare some of my favorites. For example, I’d love to find a book about all these new medical breakthroughs with huge lifesaving potential from the scientific studies of ancient Chinese remedies.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t represent memoirs or contemporary true crimes. It’s tough to read about real-life traumas and tougher to offer critiques and not have them taken personally. I prefer fiction and historical true crimes.
Also, I’m tired of seeing books like “So-and-So’s Wife” or “So-and-So’s Daughter.” I hope to find stories about women who are important in their own rights, not because they’re the women behind the prominent men in history or literature.
What would you like to change about the publishing industry?
I’d like to see publishers take more chances on new authors and support midlist authors with modest track records. More than ever, publishers want big books and rely on BookScan numbers when making acquisition decisions. Most authors won’t have a breakout book until well into their career, and they need to be given the opportunity to reach that point.
Sandy Lu is a senior agent at the L. Perkins Agency. She represents literary and commercial fiction, YA fiction, and narrative nonfiction. Her clients include Bram Stoker Award nominee Michael Boccacino, Kindle bestselling author Dot Hutchison, and New York TimesBest of the Year recipient Randall Silvis. You can find her on Twitter @sandylunyc.