What do you think will be trends in publishing in the coming year?
I think we all know better than to predict trends! But I do see a lot of interest in #ownvoices novels (hopefully not merely a trend!); an openness to smart romantic comedies which are also incorporating new points of view, and bringing the genre formerly known as chick lit into a broader iteration in age and diversity—Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang are good examples here. We’re seeing a surge of interest in Beverly Jenkins, who’s legendary in this sphere and for whom we’re negotiating two separate film/TV projects. I think we’ll be seeing more “Escape Lit”—books that allow us a break from the current state of play.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to see a nice, meaty, character-driven ghost story (modern or period); a twisty take on a classic—I’ve been amused and impressed by several recent iterations on Jane Eyre; and I’m always looking for complex, layered, character-driven mysteries and thrillers and women’s fiction. Period settings for all the above are fine too! I love fiction—especially darker thrillers—when it’s imbued with a sense of irony or humor. Give me Chelsea Cain instead of The Girl on the Train. Books with a sense of community, and people you want to spend time with, and books in which the protagonist’s actions and choices are life-altering make for a great canvas in all spheres. Our own Victoria Thompson’s City of Lies is a mystery-suspense [novel] set in the early 1900s in which a con woman gets involved with a group of suffragists to evade danger; it’s fascinating to see the “ordered” world through her eyes and to realize how little has changed for women in the past 100 years. Prime examples of escape lit are Maddie Dawson’s Matchmaking for Beginners and, from Karen Hawkins, the upcoming The Book Charmer, set in a small town where books have the power to change lives (and they call this fiction?).
What topic do you never want to see again?
Never say never!
What would you like to change about the publishing industry?
I’m not sure I can manage that topic in 500 words, but I don’t know that I’d change it so much as tweak for improvements. If I’d pick one topic, maybe I’d like to see a little more adventurousness in the fiction being published, which is the antithesis of looking for the next trend. Also, I sometimes wonder if the basics couldn’t be managed more efficiently, especially in the digital age. For example, why is it so hard to get links to other books by authors in the back of the digital text? (I know the official answer—this was rhetorical.) Why are there such issues with the quality of e-galleys? Why does it take so long to correct online information? And as I bemoan digital efficiency issues, I also wish that we didn’t rely on it so heavily for communication between authors, editors, agents. A lot of idea development and inspiration—as well as human connection—gets lost in email.
Anything else you’d like to add?
To quote R.E.M.: “Oh no, I’ve said too much.”
Nancy Yost has gone from contracts assistant to editor and ultimately to literary agent. For the last 10 years, she’s headed the Nancy Yost Literary Agency, working with authors of a wide variety of commercial fiction. She represents many New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling authors. She’s equally at home at her New York City desk, under the water in scuba gear, or at any table in any restaurant, and she’s especially happy with a good book in hand. Except for the underwater occasions.