When I was a kid, I read the entire HOBBIT buried under couch pillows in the middle of the living room. What am I looking for? Books that captivate me, mesmerize me, move me – in the same way that 9 year old Sara was moved by Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves. The genres of books I represent are limited so let me try to be a bit more specific:
In middle grade submissions, I love seeing fantasy novels because the magical world-buidling and heroic adventures seem to mesh well with the heroes and heroines of that age range. I love characters who are funny and confident and who love their parents. I love dragons, unicorns, magical swords and daredevil princesses. THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann is steampunk middle grade fantasy and it’s gorgeous, dark and intense. Conversely, THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY by Jaleigh Johnson is a high-speed train adventure with magical creatures and a girl who fell from the sky. So, don’t get too bogged down in fantasy vs. steampunk vs. historical vs. epic vs. science fiction. Just bring me complex worlds and characters with a ton of emotion.
For young adult submissions, I seem to have a soft spot for contemporary stories. I represent Miranda Kenneally, Derek Sullivan, Juliana Stone and Jennifer Shaw Wolf all who’ve written successfully in the contemporary YA market over the past five years. I love sexy characters (like Juliana’s) and funny characters (like Miranda’s) and characters who are really really struggling with issues (both Derek and Jennifer rock these). Avoid typical imagery (kids in the cafeteria or at their lockers) and generic conflict (boy troubles or shallow parents). And I am absolutely, positively and aggressively searching for heroes and heroines of diverse voice and background – I want to see teens observing different religions and coming from different cultures, using different abilities and portraying diverse races. I’ve Pro LGBTQ and Diversity friendly and I’d like to see my YA books reflect the kids I see running around outside our high schools.
New Adult is a newer genre and one I’ve been excited to enjoy. I love the sexy contemporary romance novels that are out there – written by cutting edge authors. I love Alice Clayton’s books (not a client, but I’m a huge fan) and absolutely everything by Christina Lee – especially her debut new adult ALL OF YOU about a hard-edged girl and her sexy neighbor who is troubled, tattooed and a virgin. For New Adult, I’m looking for high concept stories – something that really stands out on submission. And it’s ok if these books are 60,000-90,000 words instead of 90,000+ words. Snappy dialogue, high concept and sexy – this is what I’m looking for in New Adult.
I’ve been a romance novel lover since I was pregnant with my son and my good friend Pamela Clare brought over a copy of her new book and said, “here, read this.” That book was called SWEET RELEASE and I imprinted upon it and never looked back. I love romance and erotica – especially as a feminist – because the stories are so pro-woman. I’m very diverse in my tastes here though – I love historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, steampunk, science fiction, etc. I love couples of every sexual orientation and in every combination. Tiffany Reisz, Roni Loren, Jane Kindred, Ashlyn Macnamara – these clients write widely across genres and even more widely across sexualities and they all rock my world. Be fun, be funny and be sexy and then send me a query.
Finally, when it comes to science fiction and fantasy, this is a tough one as it was my first-love as a reader. I love complex worlds and huge, big adventures. I love Jason Hough’s epic space battles and Michael Martinez’s sailing ships that fly between planets. I also love urban fantasy with it’s awesome juxtaposition of the real world and magic – Michael Underwood has a heroine with a real light saber and Steve Vera has a gun battle on the New Jersey freeway – these are all good things. Avoid common tropes (portals, prophecies, sudden inheritances, super heroes) and go big.
Now, here’s my disclaimer. In writing a “What Am I Looking For” piece it opens the door for some author to say “I wrote a fantasy YA and Sara prefers contemporary YA.” No no! I love great writing, amazing characters, a unique story. This post is a general outline of things I love, but things I love extends far above and beyond the 1000 words here. I love mashups, I love fantasy YA and contemporary MG and Scottish highland romance and hard science fiction. If a book is complete and in a genre I represent, then I want to see the query. Don’t let the guidelines here stop you from submitting to me. It’s a short and sweet look at things I love, but not intended to be exclusive.
Hope that helps and happy writing to all,