Wednesday, December 7, 2011

5 Reasons to Drop In on the Agent Auction

One of the most exciting writing events of the year took place yesterday, but that doesn't mean it's over for you.

Miss Snark's First Victim blog runs a yearly Bakers' Dozen Agent Auction, and it's one of the best ways I know to get a read on publishing industry trends, particularly in Young Adult fiction.

60 aspiring authors 
(middle grade, young adult, and adult) submit log lines and their novels' first 250 words. Sixteen well known literary agents bid on the submissions, offering to read 5, 25, 50, 100, 150 pages, or the full manuscript. The agent who bids highest "wins" a first look at the ms. And the author, of course, "wins" a read by an agent.

This year's auction was fascinating, on a lot of levels. You need to hike over there and have a look at the comments on submissions, written by both readers and agents, and in some cases by editors. Here are some global judgements, based on this small sample:

1. Young Adult Fantasy, Dystopian, and Paranormal is saturated. 
You have to be really, really smoking in these genres to break out of the pack. Trolls, plagues, wizards, succubae, witches, dragons, the Grim Reaper, priestesses, kelpies, flesh-traders --you think you've got a great idea? Trust me, somebody else has had it. And their manuscript is complete.

2. Young Adult Steampunk/Sci-Fi is trending
There were a lot of interesting submissions in these genres (maybe it's me: I like). But if you're planning time travel, or even further, a time-traveling telepath, be careful. These ideas are hot right now, and you could get burned.

3. Agents tend to agree on what they like. 
As much as we hear the old saw about how you have to find just the "right" agent who will "fall in love" with your manuscript: Well here's the sad news. If you're querying and not getting requests, there's a reason. The glamorous submissions in this batch (#59, #56, #45, #38, #2 among others) attracted active (vicious, hysterical, energetic) bidding: It was like trying to get a date at a party once Angelina Jolie and Kate Winslett show up. Quieter but very well written submissions got less attention (my favorite of these dark horses, #22, got just one bid, from agent Sarah LaPolla).

(The exception to this "agents agree" rule is the bookalicious Sarah Davies of Greenhouse. This lady really charts her own course. As far as I could tell, she only placed one bid, on #38.)

4. You can pick em too. 
Read all 60 entries without looking at the comments. Rate your favorites on a scale of 1-10. My bet is you'll find you're as good at picking winners as these famous New York agents. The cream sits right on top, so the cats can dip their whiskers in. Concepts stand out because they're unique. The hook is something you've never read before. The prose is sharp: apt word choices, characters that grab you by the wrist and shout, "Come on!"

5. A caveat: 
Sometimes, the problem is genre. Adult genres in general didn't do so well. Not because they didn't have interesting concepts or tight writing (all entries had been pre-screened, so these were already polished submissions). Agents did go crazy for literary and/or quirky middle grade. But at least for this auction, Y/A still rules.

11 comments:

  1. I hadn't heard of this and loved your summary. I will definitely take a look.

    Is this a post Nano thing?

    Tell me, Gail, what IS Steampunk?

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  2. I heard somebody describe Steampunk, Joanna, as sci-fi that takes place in the past, rather than the future. I liked that take on it.

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  3. Thanks for the reminder to go check them out. How I love that blog :-)

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  4. Thanks for the reminder! I had forgotten about the agent auction. It was amazing to read last year, and I'll have to head on over and see if my top picks compare with theirs! My problem - if a book sounds good and well written, I don't necessarily care if I've read something similar - I'l dive right in :)

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  5. I hadn't heard of this either, and what an awesome idea! Also, I can't believed I'm not subscribed to MSFV. Heading over to do that now...

    Becca @ the Bookshelf Muse

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  6. Sounds like an intriguing thing to do. Yay for YA ruling (in this auction). LOL

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  7. Very cool! I be sure to check out your favorite.

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  8. I love reading through snippets like that, especially when results are available, since it tells me whether my critique instincts are sharp or not. Thanks for the heads-up on the auction!

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  9. "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty sed to me in my coma. "Beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find corpulent eloquence" (paraphrased). Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET any moe curly, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs when my beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girl passed-away at 17.

    Find-out where we went on our journey far, far away like the symbiotically, synonyMOUSE metaphors which creep across thy brain bringing U.S. together, exorbitantly done in four, sardonic satires.

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go git'm, girl. You're incredible.
    See you Upstairs...
    I won't be joining'm in da nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    eklektikmantra.blogspot.com

    -YOUTHwitheTRUTH
    -------------------------------
    PS Need some uncommon, unique, uncivilized names? Lemme gonna gitcha started:

    Oak Woods, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, China Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Sophie Sharp, Gloria Hood, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zachariah Neptoon, Turkey Sherwood, Mercurio Morrissey, Victoria Faulkner, Fritz & Felix Yates, Mortimer Victor, Isabella Kennedy...

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL

    ReplyDelete
  10. "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty sed to me in my coma. "Beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find corpulent eloquence" (paraphrased). Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET any moe curly, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs when my beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girl passed-away at 17.

    Find-out where we went on our journey far, far away like the symbiotically, synonyMOUSE metaphors which creep across thy brain bringing U.S. together, exorbitantly done in four, sardonic satires.

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go git'm, girl. You're incredible.
    See you Upstairs...
    I won't be joining'm in da nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    eklektikmantra.blogspot.com

    -YOUTHwitheTRUTH
    -------------------------------
    PS Need some uncommon, unique, uncivilized names? Lemme gonna gitcha started:

    Oak Woods, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, China Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Sophie Sharp, Gloria Hood, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zachariah Neptoon, Turkey Sherwood, Mercurio Morrissey, Victoria Faulkner, Fritz & Felix Yates, Mortimer Victor, Isabella Kennedy...

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL

    ReplyDelete