What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Generally, everyone’s always looking for manuscripts that bring something new to the table, something commercial with a quirk. Contemporary romance is always a favorite. New adult is a tough sell these days, as it never really developed the way everyone had hoped. As for middle-grade and YA fiction, editors are on the hunt for more horror, ghost thrillers, and fairy-tale twists (or so they told me); as for realistic stories, humorous middle-grade and darker YA were mentioned a lot. Everyone seems to be looking for middle-grade and YA magical realism, and I’m excited to see more stories in that genre. Interesting formats and original narrative structures are also popular and on the rise. Titles mentioned a lot by editors were Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall.
Stories about all kinds of diversity (race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disabilities) are sought after, though I wouldn’t want to call that a “trend.” The publishing industry has realized that we need diverse characters and stories because a) everybody deserves representation and a voice, and b) it can help create more openness, understanding, and respect. So, while I hope this is an ongoing development, and not merely a “trend,” it’s definitely something we’ll be seeing more of next year.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Un-put-down-able manuscripts with hooking plots, engaging characters, and fresh voices—just like every other agent out there.
Sports/boarding school/summer camp themes, realistic (and humorous) stories, village/farm/small-town settings, and original contemporary retellings of classics that haven’t been retold yet are always on my wish list. So are all things young-adult, romance, magical realism, and middle-grade. I’m also still looking for that stalker thriller that makes me want to look over my shoulder—a thriller that digs deep and really shows the psychological aspects of stalking and being stalked. Perhaps something in the overall vein of Karen Rose’s I’m Watching You.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
The genres I don’t represent (such as poetry, short stories, picture books, and screenplays) aside, topics I doubt I’ll ever warm up to are clowns, cannibalism, incest, talking animals, and creepy dolls. Not because they wouldn’t make for intriguing stories but because they’re not my personal cup of tea. Since I’m generally more drawn toward commercial and realistic stories, anything too fantastical, paranormal, or sci-fi will probably have a hard time winning me over.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I’m lucky enough to be able to be very editorial. It isn’t rare that I go through two or three, sometimes even more, rounds of revisions with an author before submitting their manuscript to editors. It’s time-consuming, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Of course, that also means that I can’t take on 10 new writers each month. I’m a one-woman show, and as I’d like my authors to feel fully looked after and cared for, I’m deliberately growing my list slowly.
Also, my authors don’t compete; they support and help each other, and they’re each other’s beta readers, critique partners, and cheerleaders. They’ve turned my agency into something resembling a family, which is great. My authors really make all the difference here.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m often asked if a writer really needs an agent. It’s one of those debates that seems to somewhat divide the writing community, just like self-publishing versus traditional publishing. The fact is you don’t need an agent to be a writer. You also don’t need to be published to be a writer. But an agent can come in pretty handy if you decide to be a published writer. They listen when you doubt yourself (and give you a pep talk if needed), hold your hand throughout the entire publishing process, and help you shape your career as a writer. They are your biggest fans, your wingwomen, so to speak. Agents can only take on projects and writers they believe in, but once they’ve fallen for you, they’re the Robin to your Batman, the Luigi to your Mario, the Monica to your Rachel. But whether you need or want an agent depends on the writing career you envision and whether you’d like to have a partner by your side or be self-reliant.
Julia A. Weber (@jawlitagent on Twitter) established her own agency in 2012. J.A. Weber Literaturagentur is a small, dynamic Germany-based agency specializing in representing international authors of commercial children’s and adult fiction, namely middle-grade, YA, new adult, women’s fiction, thrillers, and romance. Clients include Gail Nall (Breaking the Ice, 2015; You’re Invited, 2015), Ella Martin (Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?, 2014), Amanda Burckhard (The Ghost of You, 2015), and L.S. Murphy (Pixelated, 2015). In her spare time, Julia also offers freelance fiction editing at www.jaw-editing.com.