What do you think will be trends in publishing in the coming year?
It is very hard to predict trends, though I would say a lot of editors are in the mood for fun escapism and sweet rom-coms in YA these days. Everyone wants to find the next Jenny Han. I am still a massive YA fantasy fan (bring on the girls with swords!), but it is definitely a crowded area of the market at this moment, so any fantasy I take on has to be particularly special now. A recent favorite of mine in YA fantasy is Damselby Elana K. Arnold.
I always have editors telling me they are looking for high-quality middle-grade of any genre right now. Ultimately, excellent craft and top-notch writing never go out of style, and as long as you have the ability to wow readers, you’re ahead of the game.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
My focus these days, in terms of new clients, is mostly in the YA and middle-grade arenas, though I am also looking for select picture books and women’s fiction. I have been dying to see a sister story and, separately, a toxic-female-friendship story. I always love feminist themes (that’s the women’s studies major in me speaking). I am constantly searching my inbox for LGBTQ+ stories, particularly f/f love stories in any genre. Give me complex family dynamics, nuanced characters, and beautiful writing, and I am sold.
What topic do you never want to see again?
I’d say I’m pretty tired of gratuitous sexual violence and of seeing sexual assault as a plot device to give a male character motivation. I also don’t want to be asked to empathize with abusers or racist characters.
What would you like to change about the publishing industry?
I’d like to see the industry be more progressive in terms of hiring and employment practices. As an industry, publishing has a very long way to go when it comes to hiring a diverse workforce that reflects the way our world actually looks, which also impacts the books that are published, which then impacts the culture. Publishing as an industry also has a lot of work to do in terms of paying fair salaries, particularly to entry-level employees, which means we lose a lot of our talent before their careers can take off. We are all in publishing because we are passionate about it, but in a lot of ways, publishing isn’t a very practical career. The good news is that I see things starting to shift. I see people talking about this in a way they weren’t when I was first starting out, and I see people pushing back against it. We have a long way to go, but this is an industry full of intelligent and dedicated people who truly care, so I do believe we will get there.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am late to the party on this, but my latest obsession is Sarah Enni’s First Draftpodcast, which I find to be delightful. I have discovered so many fantastic reads through listening to her interviews!
Beyond that, I just feel so grateful to have found a career that I love and that allows me to work every single day with writers I admire and feel excited to champion. I am an agent who takes a very hands-on and client-focused approach to my career, and I work incredibly hard to make sure my clients feel supported in their goals. I believe in the power of story to change hearts and expand minds, and, to me, championing art and the artists who create it is an incredibly special job to have.
Based in New York City, Danielle Burby became an agent at Nelson Literary Agencyin January 2017. Previously, she was an agent at a New York City–based firm where she managed foreign rights in addition to building her client roster. She also interned at several top agencies and publishers before graduating from Hamilton College with a dual degree in creative writing and women’s studies. Danielle represents all genres of YA and middle-grade, along with select passion projects in women’s fiction. She particularly enjoys complex female characters, quirky adventures, narratives that ask readers to think deeply, girls with swords, and seaside novels. Danielle also looks for a strong narrative voice and characters she wants to spend time with. For more information about her wish list, check out NLA’s Submission Guidelines page. You can find details about her recent sales on Publishers Marketplace.