What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
In the mid-2000s, in just a few short years, an amazing number of major new fantasy writers were introduced, with my discoveries of Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Tor) and Peter V. Brett (Warded Man, Del Rey) as well as other authors like Patrick Rothfuss and Brent Weeks. Now, I feel like there’s more of a buzz surrounding science fiction than I’ve seen in a long time. I’m really excited by our debut novelists Joe Zieja (Mechanical Failure, Saga Press) and Curtis Chen (Waypoint Kangaroo, Thomas Dunne/SMP) that are now out, K.C. Alexander with the forthcoming Necrotech (Angry Robot, Fall 2016), and expect to see this openness to great new science fiction continue on a trail blazed by Ready Player One, The Martian, and Ancillary Justice.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I always love to see great SF/fantasy and mysteries, but right now I’m thirsting to have more nonfiction in the JABberwocky list. There’s the Anna Wintour biography Front Row, but where’s the biography for Michael Jeffries, whose career at Abercrombie & Fitch touches upon so many trends in fashion and culture, as well as being a great rise-and-fall arc? I never understood why Boston’s “Big Dig” never had a major Power Broker–type book written about it, and today, I want to know about the rise and fall of the D.C. Metro system. I was a history major in college and am a devout first-page–to-last newspaper reader, so I’ve always had an itch for nonfiction, with past sales like Victory at Any Cost by Cecil B. Currey (Potomac Books), a prizewinning book on North Vietnamese military strategist Vo Nguyen Giap, or Sharon Moore’s Lupus: Alternative Therapies That Work (Inner Traditions), that I’d like to be scratching more. I’m just about to go out to U.S. publishers with Jumping at the Chance: From NBA Hopefuls to AFL Prospects: The Players of the American Experiment (Black Inc./Nero in Australia), which is a fascinating introduction to people like Jason Holmes and Mason Cox, who’ve gone from NCAA hoops to starring roles in Australian-rules football.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
For both better and worse, science fiction is a world unto itself. Charlaine Harris is continuing her Aurora Teagarden series with All the Little Liars (SMP/Minotaur) this fall, but the dedicated mystery programs at Walker (Real Murders, A Bone to Pick) and Scribner (Three Bedrooms, One Corpse), where the series started, are long gone. Everyone “gets” and wants to publish big mysteries and thrillers, squeezing out genre lists. But Ace, DAW, Baen, Del Rey, Tor, and more have quietly published SF/fantasy for as long as I’ve been in the business, and Warner and Harper have changed imprint lines without losing their presence in the genre. It’s sometimes frustrating not to be able to break a great book like Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark (Ballantine) out of the genre, but the genre is also reassuring in its stability.
Joshua Bilmes is the president of JABberwocky Literary Agency. He started devouring mysteries as a tween, science fiction and fantasy as a teenager, and nonfiction tomes as a history major at the University of Michigan, and he joined the Scott Meredith agency within weeks of graduating college. He’s actively seeking work in all three of those categories today. His agency has helped to develop multiple New York Times bestsellers, including Charlaine Harris, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, Jack Campbell, Elizabeth Moon, and Simon R. Green, while simultaneously nurturing new authors, with almost 20 debut novels sold since the start of 2014.