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Stumbling into YA

When I first started agenting, I was unsure what kind of books I’d be working on. I assumed there would be lots of commercial fiction because I loved reading it. I figured I’d do some offbeat literary fiction because, well, same reason. I had no idea that I’d end up working on young adult fiction. That ended up being a (very, very, very) happy accident.

The only reason I got into YA was that my client Richelle Mead sent me a young adult manuscript that became Vampire Academy. I loved the novel, so I figured I should probably learn about the category in order to be able to work on it. That book ended up doing preeeeeeeeetty well. Needless to say, more YA followed, and I fell more and more in love with the category and signed on more and more authors in that realm.

Tumbling into teen fiction has so far been the happiest accident of my career. Well…my career itself is somewhat of a happy accident. I landed an internship that I thought would last a few months, and DGLM just never managed to shake me.

But the most surprising fact of finding myself representing YA books is that I never really read them as a teen. Sure, I really dug R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series, but other than that, I didn’t read many children’s or teen books. Not because I was so sophisticated a reader that I barreled past them. I was actually just a bit of a late bloomer when it came to the love of reading.

I’m still trying to catch up on the classics. I grabbed The Giver a few months ago. I only recently read The Outsiders. I read my first Roald Dahl novel THIS YEAR (and you guys…he’s super amazing). I still need to get around to A Wrinkle In Time. And yet the more of these books I read, the more hooked I am on the category and the more thrilled I am to watch it expand and grow. It has been an unexpected ride, and a completely joyful one.

I will also add as a side note that I am not only looking for YA. I still adore commercial adult fiction, offbeat literary fiction, and I’d kill to find some amazing narrative nonfiction. The ONLY downside to my success with YA is that sometimes people forget I’m looking for other stuff too!

2 Responses to Stumbling into YA

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that YA is my favorite genre to write…. The emotions are much more “real” and “raw” as they are not corroded by our jaded experiences as adults. You can go back in time to those awkward moments, re-work them and sometimes even live vicariously through the characters you create. Kind of liberating to be truthful:-)

    Thanks for posting this Jim and am so glad your happy accident helped create a solid platform for writers and readers in this genre:-)

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    On a pure flashback level, I have to say I kind of miss the YA horror wave of ’87 to ’94 and the silly sleepover frisson of Fear Street, although even the bad stuff nowadays is usually a lot better written. This market collapsed after too many writers and publishers discovered that you really can blow the bottom out of the lowest common denominator, (and I’ll confess we made lots of fun of it at Borders where I worked at the time) and there are more than a few agencies that have yet to wake up and realize that YA is way more than just a downmarket sideshow these days. It’s also nice that the market now can adjust to an overload in stuff like dystopia and paranormal without going completely kaplooey like it did back then. If anybody recalls, that gloomy period was followed by aboput half a decade of nothing but studio-sponsered novelizations of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, etc., altough the powers that be devoted a couple of years to burning down the Middle Grade market in similar fashion. Ah, the bad old days…

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