An Agent Talks Trends in MG/YA Publishing

At our Boston Bookish Tweetup on Sunday, literary agent Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency reflected on the current and future state of Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) books. Lauren kindly gave me permission to post some notes here. If other agents, editors, or teen and tween experts want to chime in, feel free to add your comments.

What's in her slush pile:
  • A ton of romance.
  • Lots of books chasing TWILIGHT.
  • Ghosts, vampires, witches, werewolves, the supernatural in general.
  • Historical fiction, especially with WWII and Civil Rights content.
  • Fantasy, with many HARRY POTTER and LORD OF THE RINGS wannabes.
What publishing houses are asking for:
  • Clean books that can sell in every part of the country.
  • MG in general -- several publishers are eagerly looking for it.
  • Funny books, especially for middle grade. Absolutely saleable.
  • "Boy" books, including nonfiction, which sells better to boys.
  • Solidly commercial books versus award-winning "literary" books.
  • Paranormal stories still have an open window.
What we'll see in the future:
  • A growing market for books about food, chefs, cooking.
  • YA dystopia will come back strong with the release of the HUNGER GAMES movie.
  • A push for books with YA/Adult crossover potential. More adults in their twenties and thirties are shopping in the young adult section.
Recent tweets to authors about finding an agent:
Being a member of a writers organization or group is nice, but won't turn a maybe to yes.

Check out what the agency has sold, make sure they don't charge fees, and look for happy/repeat clients.

We can usually sell nonfiction faster than fiction.

It's important that the query reflect the voice of the writer; especially if including sample pages.

Query everyone who reps your genre! Agents are delighted to fight over authors, even if we lose.

I love hearing that an author blogs -- that should definitely be in your query letter if it is part of your platform.

I'm dying for YA or MG nonfiction. Also looking for things with adult crossover appeal.

I look for people I want to work with! I'd say no to good writing if the author was a jerk.
Track tips from Lauren and other agents on Twitter here (hashtag #askagent, for those who tweet). To submit to Lauren, read her agency guidelines, and address your email or regular mail to her attention.