WORD ON THE STREET
Q&A: VERONICA PARK OF THE CORVISIERO LITERARY AGENCY
What are some upcoming trends?
To me, it’s obvious that we’re currently experiencing something like a renaissance in the YA genre, largely because—thanks to the internet—young adults have enhanced access to the things they want to read and the unprecedented ability to respond and interact directly with creators. What was once an underserved (or at least overlooked) segment of readers is now a loud, voracious, and increasingly respected market demographic. But they’re also very picky, and they should be. So I think we’re going to see a lot more criticism of formerly greenlighted premises and topics in the middle-grade/YA space, especially when it comes to stories dealing with marginalized experiences. You’ll notice that agents and editors are more selective than ever when it comes to working with projects written for kids and teens. Emphasis is being placed on quality over trendiness in these spaces. Ultimately, I think that’s for the best.
When it comes to women’s fiction and romance, we’re seeing a similar shift but with a lighter tone. Whereas middle-grade and YA is getting darker, bolder, more visceral—even in fantasy landscapes—book-club readers seem to be looking for more choices that escape reality and embrace idealism. (Not judging here, since I’m a huge fan of escapist fiction.) Romances are getting sweeter and cheesier, and nice heroes are more desirable than ever. Commercial women’s fiction is more murder-y than before, yes, but it’s also wittier and more accessible. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of what used to be called chick-lit sweeping the lists over the next couple of years.
In terms of nonfiction, we’re definitely going to see many more high-profile #MeToo stories, and I think that it’s important to help bring these experiences out of the shadows and into our daily conversations. Also, political post-mortems. (But again, that’s not a premonition so much as a painfully obvious observation.) I’m also sensing a need for fusion projects that pair topics like fitness and mixology or parenting and meditation.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I definitely don’t see enough historical fiction from a people-of-color or LGBT point of view, particularly if it’s #ownvoices….I’d love to read more about female pirates, queer knights, and foreign princesses who misbehave. Also, I feel like there’s a huge opportunity, with the resurrection of rom-coms, to take classic tropes and make them feel fresh and exciting again. Whether that’s by including more diversity (because it’s truer to the world we live in) or by gender-bending traditional romantic roles or even just by including more technological snafus, I’m totally here for the next My Best Friend’s Wedding or While You Were Sleeping reboot.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Real talk: If I never see another 300,000 word manuscript again, it will be too soon.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I often feel like I’m waiting at the corner of yesterday and tomorrow. Publishing as a business is a unique marriage of Industrial Revolution–era thinking and linguistic alchemy. (The film industry is similar.) Essentially, the whole system runs on rules, and everyone gets that the rules must be followed...but few people can simply articulate what those rules are. Or how they always work. (Hence, one of my favorite publishing adages: “It doesn’t work, until it does.”) In the tech world, there’s more of a trial-and-error culture and less emphasis on essentially unprovable concepts like raw talent or infallible instinct. I appreciate this because I’m very much a let’s-do-this-and-see-what-happens person.
But the common thread in all of these industries is: What works clearly works. Because your content or product is interacting with human beings on some level, you’ll eventually discover that people want what people want, whether it’s faster downloads, a crime-fighting teenage squirrel, or another Expendables movie. The market will always tell you what it wants—or doesn’t want—to consume. If you beta test and crowdsource your assumptions at every stage of the process, you’ll be much more likely to succeed at giving the people what they want. This is true for all people, at all levels of publishing—from authors who write to agents who pitch to editors who edit.
How are you working with self-pubbed writers?
I’ve worked with self-published authors in a variety of capacities over the past 10 years, from editing to formatting manuscripts for e-publishing to building author websites to search-engine optimization and marketing. Recently, I’ve been doing mostly one-on-one platform and process consulting to help authors treat their writing career like the business it should be— creating a clear and cohesive brand identity, telling their brand’s story in an effective way, building an online platform that best supports their messages, market-testing concepts, and planning big-picture goals, down to the monthly, weekly, daily tasks and habits necessary to achieve them. Branding is something every professional should study, in my opinion, and every author should have at least a basic brand strategy in place if they want to reach their full potential. Process, on the other hand, is more about figuring out what works best for you and doing that repeatedly (and on purpose).
What would you like to change about publishing?
Publishing, as a career, should be more accessible to nonwhite, nonhetero, non–economically-privileged people. Period. We’re not going to grow as an industry or change with the times if we only accept talent from certain channels. That probably means paid internships—or at least more remote internship availability—and active recruiting by agencies, author organizations, and publishers among communities that have too long been overlooked. When our agencies, acquisitions committees, marketing teams, and conference panels are commonly filled with professionals who more accurately represent the communities we strive to reach, I truly believe the market will enthusiastically respond. And that will naturally result in more opportunities for creators.
Veronica Park is a literary agent at the Corvisiero Literary Agency in New York City. She is also a project manager, brand strategy consultant, and writer. In publishing, she has found an arena that requires her entire assortment of professional skills while also allowing her to read and write as often as possible. From editing to marketing to consulting on author platforms and campaigns, she’s been fortunate enough to experience the publishing industry from a lot of different angles. At the end of the day, she believes that there’s nothing you can't accomplish with the three Ps: persistence, perseverance, and a positive attitude.