Also to be found on kidlit.com where Mary Kole shares her own memories of the conference
Uh, yeah, that's me in the front in the sweater dress and high boots. But who is that in the back?! Yup, Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Now, let me be forthcoming here and admit a lot of the overwhelming feelings I had stemmed from the fact that there were quite a few brilliant agents at this conference. Mary Kole is, of course, amazing, but she was by no means the only amazing one there (she is, however, the only one I have proof of meeting). Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, LTD and Dan Lazar of Writer's House also happened to grace the event. And let me tell you, they are both people I would LOVE to work with.
Hah! Wouldn't we all?
But I digress. You wanted to hear about what I learned.
What I learned:
1. Different agents want different things.
Well, we all know to look out for what agents want regarding genre, but did you ever stop to think that maybe each one feels differently about how a query should look, too? Again, we all know the basics like put the personal stuff on the top for one agent and on the bottom for another, but I'm talking MAJOR differences.
Dan Lazar, for example, almost seems to prefer the gimmicky stuff. Now, that's not to say you should go all crazy and write a query from the POV of your MC's cat, but the examples he gave of good queries definitely did seem to be written in the voice of the MC (which some agents caution against). A couple of his favorites might have even had some swearing in them. :o ;)
Ginger Clark, on the other hand, prefers a straight-up business letter. Get to the point in as few words as possible. No gimmicks, just plot. If you were to send a query with swearing in it to her, I'd hazard to guess you wouldn't pique her interest.
What does this mean?
Well, if you plan on querying more than one agent, you might need to start thinking about having more than one query written up. And the golden rule is to definitely, ABSOLUTELY do your research.
2. The future of YA is looking bright.
We've all heard that a million times, but don't you ever wonder if it's really true? Well, according to the industry professionals at the conference, it absolutely is true.
Sales in YA have been virtually unaffected by the e-book revolution (not so with adult books) and it seems that today's youth prefer the nostalgia of paper over technology. This is actually important to note because there's less profit to be had from e-books as opposed to hardcovers.
The big chains have begun moving their YA books into their own section (out of the children's department) and devoting more space to them. Not only is this great because it shows the chains recognize the profit they're garnering from YA, but it also means more potential customers may be wooed to purchase YA (i.e. customers who previously may have been uncomfortable purchasing something in the children's section).
3. Science Fiction is the next vampire
Holy cow, guys, you have no idea how excited I am! EVERY agent said this. Every. Single. One. I swear my brightened face must have been seen from the moon I was so happy.
And you want to know something else? They're desperate for space operas. Do you see my eyes popping out of my head like Roger Rabbit right now? No? Because they are!
Why, you ask?
Well, I've actually been trying to avoid the whole space opera label because I'd read most people think they're trashy. But I'm now proud to admit to all the world that ELEMENTAL is a space opera! Phew! I feel so much better for getting that out into the open.
For those who aren't necessarily aware of what a space opera is, think of Star Wars. They're stories on a grander scale. Instead of planetary tiffs, galactic empires battle for control. Instead of just a bad guy, it's the war between good and evil. Usually there's some massive battle scene where some really huge stuff gets blown up (which I have, by the way :) ).
So yeah, super excited about that one.
Side Note: I rewrote my query for ELEMENTAL, so please check it out and let me know what you think!
And to read more about what I learned at the SCBWI Conference, check in next Monday! Friday, I'll be getting back into book reviews (so don't miss it!).
Discussion: What do you guys think? Are you excited about the future of YA? Did I say anything here you didn't already know? (and if I didn't, that just goes to show how lame I am because this was all new to me)