What do YA editors and publishers want?


I write Young Adult fantasy.  I love it.  I don’t have any elves in my novels, but I do  have sorcerers and sorceresses, mages, meadow gnomes, dragons, knights, squires as well as some made up creatures of my own, such as the shime and sestras (you’ll have to read the books to find out what they are *wink*).

My novel takes place in both the real and a parallel world.  My protag, David, and his best friend, Charlotte, live in the fictional town of Havendale, Tennessee, a small dot on the map buried in the mountains near Bristol, Tennessee.  He would like to think he’s normal, but when he discovers his parents may not be dead and he can make himself invisible to animals, David soon realizes there’s more to being him than the obvious.  Before he can make heads or tails out of his predicament, Charlotte and David are kidnapped by a rift traveler and ferried to the parallel world of Fallhollow.  Now stuck in the realm, David soon learns what he must do if he ever wants to see Havendale again…and it’s not pleasant.

The first novel in the trilogy, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, focuses on David’s struggle to complete the first mission in his quest to return home.  The cast is a mix of colorful and sometimes dangerous characters, and the emotional and physical battles are intense and revealing.

While I love my story and my beta readers have given me big thumbs up (though I’m still making changes to make the text richer and tighter), I have often wondered if there is an audience for this sort of novel in today’s YA market.  What exactly are editors and publishers looking for?  I think most debut authors have all asked this question as they are putting the final touches on their manuscripts.  I came across a great blog post by author/agent Mandy Hubbard.  In her blog from May 17, 2011, she clears up this mystery for us.

As to fantasy, she had this to say:

“Fantasy, in general, is of interest, though few editors want the truly epic LORD OF THE RINGS style fantasy—being accessible to a wide range of readers is important.”

“Boy YA is still tough, and needs to appeal to girls in at least some regard, or it may get shot down at acquisitions.”

May I say I know this last statement to be true as I have experienced this firsthand.

I did find her comments that sci-fi may be the next big wave/trend.  I know some YA sci-fi authors who will grin ear to ear with this news.

My 16-year old son asked me this morning if this news made me second–guess myself and my novel.  I smiled and said “No, no more than I did before (he knows I’m a perfectionist and nothing I write will ever be perfect to me).  It all boils down to if an agent or a publisher believes I wrote a kick-butt novel.”

I’d like to think I did.  Only time will tell.  What I do know for sure is the journey to becoming a published author has been amazing and humbling, and I look forward to following this passion for many more years to come.

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2 responses to “What do YA editors and publishers want?

  1. Here’s my big grin…. spanning ear to ear!!!! You know, a month ago people were blogging that Sci Fi was a dead Genre, so I really don’t worry about things like this. Yes, mine is definitely Sci Fi with strong Fantasy tendacies (and now Dystopian, I just found out) and yours is more High Fantasy because there is a dragon. Who cares? Even if you write a book about ants the day when someone decides ants are going to be a hit, it still needs to grab on and spark someone’s interest. Does it matter if the aunt has to run away from a dragon and gets saved by a flying saucer? Not if it’s told right. The story and presentation is what is going to get your book out there. Now, If I was writing a vampire story, I’d be nervous, because that’s being forced out because it was overdone.

    In general though, to be honest… If I go to a bookstore. I’m going to reach for the book with the dragon on in 9 times out of 10. I don’t care what publishers think is “in”. (Funny, yeah, I write Sci-Fi) You need to write what makes you happy.

    Either that, Jen, or have David jump into a space ship at the end and go all comando on Einar. Yeah, that’ll work! :-)

    • ha ha! no spaceships but David does unleash the Raptors, and I’m not talking dinosaurs. Remember the annoying dragonfly/fairy scene I cut? Guess where the aerial dogfights went? ;) ;)

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