Want to be the next Stephenie Meyer, Cecily Von Ziegesar or Judy Blume — but don’t know quite how to get there? The Getting There part is key. And with the young-adult book industry hotter than ever — regular old adults are reading too — aspiring writers signing deals left and right. What’s their secret? We have good ideas too, and they’re not about vampires! So we went to YA expert Lauren Brown, author of the upcoming franchise Doggy Divas, to score some tips on how to get published, starting with an original idea (and a really good agent). Here’s what she advised:
- Immerse yourself. Devour everything that’s out there in the youth market, from Teen Vogue to ABC Family shows to the CW’s Gossip Girl to The Clique book franchise. The idea is to get a feel for the trends and we’re things are going. Lauren, a former entertainment editor at CosmoGirl, suggests visiting the youth market research site Ypulse to keep an eye on what’s hot and what’s not — speaking of, Lauren predicts the vampire craze is cooling down (or maybe it’s because she’s not that into paranormal romance involving vamps and anything Twilight). With publishers reissuing retro classics like Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High, there is a return “to simple stories about growing up” that are stripped down, Lauren says. That said, she notes, universal themes like friendship and first love that speak to readers are present across all YA genres (from books about suburban babysitters to misunderstood half-pixies). While the supernatural market is saturated, if you have an original idea in your head that involves said half-pixies, and a unique voice to boot, then go with it. Because …
- That idea you’re passionate about is most important — so hunker down and start on your manuscript! “Don’t worry about it being perfect,” says Lauren. She suggests writing some 35,000 words — or about 180 pages — without censoring yourself, without pressure. Book agents not only prefer that you “string a sentence together,” she says, they also want to see strength of plot and character and an airtight, solid idea — something promising they can sell a publisher on.
- Get an agent. Once you’ve finished your manuscript — or more than half of it — you’ll need to find an agent, and since they read a ton of manuscripts, you’ll need to make yours user-friendly. So attach a one-sheet on top with a bulleted notes on the plot synopsis, character development and a chapter outline. Lauren argues against submitting a book proposal — it’s better to give them more than less. Lauren got her three-book deal for Doggy Divas — about a motley crew of 8th-grade dog walkers — through an agent, who hooked her up with a publisher that needed a good writer with good ideas (her first book, due in October, features commentary by the characters’ dogs, a unique twist that sets it apart from other books focusing on tween friendships).
- Can’t get an agent? Start a blog, and “post random parts” of your book, Lauren says. Start musing on topics relating to your book and engaging readers. Once you show that you can build a following — a fan base if you will — that gives an agent concrete evidence that you have influence in the YA market, and increases your odds of getting a deal.
On that note, do you love to write — and do you have a cool story to submit to Crushable? Hit us up! Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org — we’re always looking to post readers’ stories (including your fan fiction).