What’s in the Sub Pile: August 2016

For today’s submission tips series, I thought it might be fun to try something new on this blog and talk about some patterns and trends that I’m currently seeing in the submission pile. Obviously I’m not going to discuss submissions in any specific detail, but as I writer myself, I find it interesting to observe patterns in the submissions I read; I hope that other writers may find it helpful as well.

I do want to note here that I read submissions for a YA imprint (of all genres) and adult romance imprints (both category and single-title), so those are the only types of manuscripts I see (unless someone seriously disregards the sub guidelines,  in which case I don’t read their submission anyway). So those are the categories/genres I’ll be discussing.

With that said, here are some things that I’ve seen in the sub pile over the past few months:

  1. YA dystopian disguised as fantasy or sci-fi

I totally sympathize on this one. It’s still hard to pitch a YA book as a dystopia, and in some cases I think it’s smart to focus on the fantasy/sci-fi elements instead. But, to be honest, if your book is still a dystopia at heart and doesn’t offer enough unique fantasy/sci-fi elements, I’m still going to identify it as a dystopia regardless of what your pitch says. And so will the acquisitions board that has to approve it. You can set a book in space and call it sci-fi, or include magical powers and call it fantasy, but if the main plot of your book still fits the girl-overthrows-government-in-terrible-society mold, it’s going to be a tough sell.

If you’re considering writing a YA book with a dystopian world or plot, consider ways in which you can make it stand out. If it’s a true fantasy or sci-fi with some really interesting, marketable elements, it might do well. But if you’ve written a straightforward YA dystopia, you might want to wait for a change in the current market.

  1. Adult romances set outside the U.S.

This is a trend that I’m really loving right now, for the most part. Setting can lend such a unique tone to a story, and if done well, it can really make a submission stand out. I’m currently working with one of our established authors on an entire series of romances with international settings, and it’s something I’d like to do more. However, I am seeing a lot of storylines in the sub pile that I think are a bit overused: a woman going on a journey to “find herself,” or going on vacation and meeting an international “superstar” of some kind, etc. These plots have to be really well done to stand out to me. Also, while I’d enjoy seeing more international settings in general, there are several that seem to be used more often than others: Italy, Spain, England and Scotland all come to mind. (Outlander is likely responsible for that last one). I’d like to see a greater range of settings here, especially non-European settings.

  1. YA Peter Pan retellings

Retellings of particular stories always seem to come in waves, and the one I’m seeing the most in YA at the moment is Peter Pan. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, as there are a lot of really unique ways to retell aspects of this story. But there are also a lot of Peter Pan retellings hitting bookshelves this year, and that can make it difficult to sell these. Retellings in general always seem to be in flux—sometimes they’re really in, but the market also gets easily flooded with them. Bookstores often don’t want to restock multiple retellings, as they see them as competing with each other. However, depending on the retelling and the genre, they might be different enough to work. So, I definitely wouldn’t say “No more Peter Pan retellings!” because I think there’s always room for a particularly fresh and imaginative one. But I would advise writers working on retellings to be very aware of these issues and keep a close eye on the market before committing to a particular project.

That’s it for now! What do you think? Is this information helpful/interesting? Should I do another one of these features in the future? Let me know in the comments!

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Related Links:

What I Wish I’d Known While Querying

7 Querying Mistakes to Avoid

5 Common Novel Openings to Avoid

5 Tips for Using Comp Titles


4 thoughts on “What’s in the Sub Pile: August 2016

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