After a long, drudgy winter, I needed to kick-start my writing mojo, so I decided to attend a new writer’s conference. Actually, it’s not a new conference, just new to me (the UW Madison Writers’ Institute is actually in its 24th year). It’s never easy to get away for a couple of days, but I’m glad I made the effort. The Writers’ Institute was fun, informative, inspiring, and a great way to recharge my writing.
One my favorite presentations was Understanding the Trends While Writing Children’s/YA Literature, presented by Bree Ogden, an agent with D4EO Literary. She provided us with a wealth of info and answered a lot of questions. I thought I’d pass along a few tips (these are from the notes I took during her talk):
- Agents can love a manuscript but know it’s not going to sell because the market is saturated, so they pass.
- Don’t jump on a trend bandwagon. It can take at least three years between when you start your book and when it’s on the shelves (and that’s best case scenario—assuming you get an agent and he/she sells your project right away).
- Trends don’t ever fade out completely; they often change and evolve. If you plan to write about an overdone trend (e.g. vampires), you need to give it a fresh spin or place it in a new setting.
- To be more inventive in your own writing, do historical and scientific research; look at the political and sociological climate for story ideas.
- Publishers are a little more reluctant to take on series. Even if you’ve written your book as the first of a trilogy, it should come to a satisfying conclusion (i.e. not end on a total cliffhanger); you can mention it has “series potential” when you pitch it.
- A lot of publishers are looking for YA thrillers, mysteries, and suspense.
- Use Publishers’ Marketplace to see current sales of YA books; the listings will include the agent’s name, the publication house, and the book’s logline.
Overall, the conference was a great experience, plus the organizers provided us with a huge binder of handouts for all the sessions. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to read through them all and see what other tips I can pick up.