I have plenty of stuff that I know clients are busy working on, so I don't need to find. But... there are still things I am looking for. Holes on the list, if you will.
NOTES: If I haven't mentioned it on this list, go ahead and try. Why not, right? Also, this list is only MY taste, I am speaking for nobody else at my agency. If you think you've written something I'll love, remember to follow submission guidelines carefully! So. Here's what I'd really like to see --
*MIDDLE GRADE* - I want a book that a kid is gonna read and re-read till the wheels fall off.
I tend to like MG books with a "classic" feel. I'm pretty much always partial to comedies, school stories, heartfelt family stories, mysteries, magical OR realistic adventure. I like stories where the kids are active, smart, have interests, hobbies, are super into the arts or athletics, or even have jobs or start businesses.
Recent favorite MG's include LIAR & SPY, BIGGER THAN A BREAD BOX, THE SECRET TREE. Old favorites include anything E. Nesbit, Hilary McKay, and Noel Streatfeild.
I appreciate a fun format/style. ORIGAMI YODA comes to mind, or THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET. But you know, not those, because those are taken.
I'd love a great creeptastic MG ghost story, along the lines of Antonia Barber's THE GHOSTS, Patricia Clapp's JANE-EMILY or Mary Downing Hahn's WAIT TILL HELEN COMES.
I'd also love an animal story, particularly Dog or Horse... but no DEAD animals, please. Favorites include DOG'S WAY HOME, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, and the horse books of Farley, Smiley and Pam Munoz Ryan.
*YA* - I want to be absolutely invested in the characters and their world.
Realistic YA (or possibly magical realism): Examples: Character-driven weepers like Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, which takes your heart out and stomps on it, but then puts it back together with love. Or Natalie Standiford's HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT, a 'non-traditional friendship story' that made me cry buckets and see the world through new eyes when I was done. Or romance like ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS - light, bubbly, a love interest you adore, challenges to the relationship, but a happily ever after.
GLBTQ Romance is cool, as long as it isn't stereotypical or just a coming-out narrative. I'm interested in gender issues, gender-bending, and just basically queer stuff that isn't preachy or gloomy.
Sexy Historical -- I don't want to learn some dumb lesson about history -- I want to think about dresses, kisses and intrigue. For example GILT by Katherine Longshore was a favorite (I think of it as "Gossip Girl in the Court of Henry VIII" -- or VENOM by Fiona Paul, set amongst the murderers and artists of Renaissance Italy. I would really like a fun, sexy YA set in old Hollywood.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Hard to describe but um... Have you written something with characters that the reader falls in love with, that is also as riveting & cunningly wrought as CODE NAME: VERITY? If so, please come to me, my pretty little darling.
*HIGH CONCEPT MG OR YA*
A high concept premise should resonate with the reader immediately, be super appealing, and have a compelling twist. You should be able to immediately get a picture in your head of what this book will be about. And OH YEAH, the writing and characters still have to be awesome. Note: High Concept can be in pretty much any genre or category. If you can say the plot in one snappy sentence, that is often high-concept. Many movies are high-concept. (Click for more detailed explaination)
EXAMPLES of High Concept:
EVERY DAY by David Levithan. Every day, "A" wakes up in a new body, in a new house, in a new life... but every day, is in love with the same girl. (This is sort of a quadfecta, as it is high concept, gorgeously written, a super-romance, and tackles a lot of gender issues).
INSIGNIA by SJ Kincaid. A loser with little school aptitude but phenomenal gaming skills is tapped by the government to become the ultimate war machine.
OK, so that's a lot of things I like.
What do I NOT want?
NO BORING. Whatever the book, it can't be just somebody moping around trying to figure life out or just dealing with their family issues or whatever - they have to DO something, there has to be a hook.
NO PARANORMAL, DYSTOPIAN. Shapeshifters, Slayers, Reapers, Elementals, Were-Vamp-Mer-Hybrids, end-of-the-world scenarios. I have some excellent examples of these types of books on my list already, no more room at the inn.
NO PORTALS. I am not interested in books about kids who hang around doing nothing all day and being lamesters, until they find a portal, jump into a video game, put on a ring, or similar. In other words: "totally average in every way... until they find an amulet/get bitten by a crow/hit their head" -- this is a trope I see WAY TOO OFTEN in my inbox.
NO DEAD GIRLS. NO DEAD ANIMALS. NO RAPE, ANOREXIA OR HOLOCAUST NARRATIVES. NO MISERY LIT. Sorry, I am sure your book is terrific, but it isn't for me, I've got all I can take.
NO GROWNUP BOOKS.
TO SUM UP
YES: SNAPPY. NO: BORING.
IF IT ISN'T ON THE "NO" LIST, GIVE IT A SHOT.
IF IT ISN'T ON THE "NO" LIST, GIVE IT A SHOT.