What are some upcoming trends?
For decades, juvenile fiction has held a true and steady course with fiction that celebrated school and family life—commonalities among children’s audiences over the last 50 years. However, trying to deal with the explosion of audience response has become increasingly difficult. The question is: Do we aim books at young people themselves or at the adults who love to read children’s books for the faster paced storytelling—which seems to be diminishing in much of adult fiction—or for nostalgia of simpler lives?
I, for one, hope the glut of epic fantasy diminishes. How many vaunted new series have disappeared amid just a few large successes?
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would like to see real poetry for young people. There’s been an explosion in verse fiction for young adults, some of it first class but too much of it is simply ill-crafted and careless in form and emotional content. Where are the Lucille Cliftons who moved easily among various audiences?
There is far too little first-rate nonfiction in history and biography and too much of what I call “term paper writing,” which is simply derivative or too often based on outmoded research.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Merchandise tie-in materials to movies and television have always been part of the children’s book racket, but its dominance in the field today is truly overwhelming. Is that kind of brand recognition the only thing a child will respond to? Do we really need Ninja Turtles in another go-around?
One of the great sorrows of today’s publishing world is how difficult it is for young artists to hone and develop their talents. Rarely will a publishing house publish more than one book a year by the same artist, so a relationship between an artist and a publisher is hard to articulate and grow. I can think of half a dozen brilliant artists who cannot fully establish a career because they have to work for too many publishers who can’t alone help them define their talents. This may be a matter of competition and sales and marketing as much as it is editorial, but I think it cripples innovation in the industry.
George Nicholson has been an agent at Sterling Lord Literistic since 1995. Before then, he founded Delacorte Press and Yearling Books and was publisher of books for children at Viking Press as well as at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. Among his clients are Tony Abbott, Joan Bauer, Betsy Byars, Cathleen Bell, Lois Duncan, Kevin Emerson, Alexandra Flinn, Patricia Reilly Giff, Jan Greenberg, Michael Harmon, Sandra Jordan, Peter Lerangis, Laura and Tom McNeal, Leonard Marcus, Harry Mazer, Rune Michaels, Philip Nel, Alice Provensen, Deborah Kogan Ray, Susan Goldman Rubin, Sergio Ruzzier, Clete Smith and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. He also manages the literary estates of Don Freeman, Hardie Gramatky, Marguerite Henry and Lois Lenski. He has taught and lectured widely and is on the board of the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.