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Bologna Wrap-Up

So, Bologna is over. VinItaly, the world’s biggest wine trade show, which I happened to be in Verona for completely by accident but which, of course, I also attended, is over. I don’t have to walk around another ginormous expo center until I see my nemesis–the Javits–for BEA in June. Although, if we’re being totally honest, it would behoove me to walk around and around and around the Javits for weeks to shed the evidence of a three-week-long European food and wine binge from my hips. Hello, jeggings!

But this isn’t a post about me expanding my booty food an wine horizons. For that you can check out Chowlit. This is a post about me expanding my children’s foreign market horizons. I have to say, right off the top, that none of this insight would be possible without ABLA’s incomparable foreign co-agent Taryn Fagerness. My colleague Jenn Laughran and I watched her pitch at meeting after meeting with something approaching awe. Girlfriend was meeting foreign publishers, scouts, and movie people from dawn to dusk, then somehow marshaling the energy for Bologna’s extracurricular parties and dinners (and…gelato excursions…oh, the gelato excursions).

Some of you eagle-eyes may have noticed that I’ve updated my Wish List (look in the sidebar to your right –>). This has to do with Bologna, sure, but, frankly, an overhaul was overdue. Some things have stayed (like heartbreaking MG voice, edgy YA, issue book), but others are new or edited.

Here’s the news that was heard up and down the halls in Bologna: the market has shifted away from paranormal and (most) dystopian, and we’re in a bit of a trend valley at the moment. I’ve been saying this for a few months at conferences, and it’s nice to have that opinion resoundingly confirmed. Contemporary realistic is on the rise, though I still have my doubts about it. I’ve been hearing editors request contemporary realistic for a year or two now, though not everyone can convince a more trend-minded house to actually buy it. Sure, we’re all sick of paranormal and dystopian, but not all publishers have been able to put their offers where their mouths are with contemporary. When I get more evidence of this, I’ll fully buy the contemporary “trend” we’re all talking about.

Another mini-trend: thriller. So you’ll see it added to my list, though with a caveat. Thrillers need to…thrill. A lot of the manuscripts that cross my desk with the “thriller” pitch are predictable, with low stakes, not enough action, and characters that aren’t sympathetic or worth my care. This is a problem. I’m sure we’ll see more excellent examples of YA thriller as they’re published, but to see something dark and psychological and irresistible, check out I HUNT KILLERS by Barry Lyga, pubbing next month from Little, Brown. I hope thrillers take off–I love suspense and surprise in my slush.

Light sci-fi has been a buzzword for about the last year, but I’m not seeing a lot of sci-fi publishing and doing well, so I don’t know if houses are jumping all over it like they said they were going to. There’s always demand for fantasy and action/adventure, especially in middle grade. Speaking of which, I saw domestic and foreign editors and scouts alike begging for more meaty middle grade. Movie people, too. Good MG is very difficult to write, I think, because it’s such an in-between time in a person’s life and therefore true character and voice for this age group is very difficult to nail. It’s also a lot less “sexy” than YA, especially market-wise, so maybe a lot of aspiring writers think that MG is “slumming it.” I wish they wouldn’t. Sure, the MG world is missing a lot of YA’s glamor, but the opportunity to publish in it is very much there.

Finally, while there are a lot of original and licensed properties being published overseas that originated there, the US and the UK really lead the charge for creating new content. A lot of the books that come out in smaller territories had their starts in the English-speaking publishing world. Exceptions with a lot of native material are probably Italy, France, and Germany, though they do buy a significant number of US/UK properties. In the English-speaking world, we are the big publishing deal, folks. So let’s make it count and put out some awesome books that will thrill not only local readers, but the world at large!

Overall, an invigorating fair with lots of interesting people and ideas swirling around. And gelato. Did I mention the gelato? Thanks to my colleague Jenn, as well as Jo Volpe and Kathleen Ortiz from Nancy Coffey, who were my constant companions. Now I’m going to eat a bunch of kale and pretend that most of those meals didn’t happen…

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  1. Rose’s avatar

    I love gelato!

    I think the Next Big Thing depends on some amazing ms out there that someone–a lot of someones–fall in love with. And whatever the genre, that’s what’s going to start the trend. Not the other way around. At least, that’s what seems to have led past trends.

    I hear a lot about publishers wanting middle grade, but I haven’t see so many agents taking it on (even though I know a lot of people writing it). And, I’ve heard a few agents say that while editors are asking for it, they don’t seem to be buying much. Do you think the added interest from Bologna will give MG a boost?

  2. Jesse’s avatar

    I like that comment “put your money where your mouth is.” I have an agent currently shopping a MG book (and let’s face it, if it wasn’t at least halfway decent I wouldn’t have gotten an agent in the first place, especially one who has award-winning clients), and while the editors are requesting to read it, no one is buying it. My agent says he’s getting frustrated because editors tell him they want something, and then they only buy what they say they’re tired of.

  3. Giora’s avatar

    Thanks, Mary, for the summary from Bologna. Did you see any Chinese YA book publishers in the conferene? Did you hear about a growing interest for YA fiction set in Asia? Thanks.

  4. Julie Daines’s avatar

    Sounds like you had a great and tasty trip. Thanks for the trend info.

    Sometimes when I read this kind of market summary, I wonder if what publishers say they’re looking for reflects more of the publisher’s taste than readers’ taste. Do you think that could be true?

    Publishers say they are tired of paranormal/dystopian (and I agree) but are the YA girls that keep buying it and loving it tired? Maybe that’s why publishers say they want something new, but keep taking on the same old same old–because it sells. What do you think?

  5. Kim’s avatar

    Thank you, Mary. Extremely interesting and helpful.

    Do you have any advice for those of us who are just now querying with paranormal romance?

    My novel involves ghosts. I haven’t seen much of this in paranormal YA – but I’m a bit concerned that the overall downturn will effect my chances of interesting an agent.

  6. Jesse’s avatar

    That’s probably true, Julie. I’ll bet with the phenomenal success of the Hunger Games movie we haven’t seen the last of dystopian fiction.

  7. LK’s avatar

    Ugh, Kale.

  8. Molten Notebook’s avatar

    Kale is actually pretty good if you whip it up in a blender with a banana, half a cup of apple juice, and some ice. (It’s not as weird as it sounds, I swear…)

    I’m curious about the reference to “meaty” middle grade. Does that mean MG about serious issues, like bullying?

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