*Diversity- I can’t emphasize this enough. Every single book buzz session I went to had multiple books they said, “This will particularly appeal to (specialized groups)”. Some examples for you: Children with military parents, *insert race here*, children with divorced parents, low income households, GLBT, etc.
*Genre mixing- It’s not enough to be a paranormal YA. One book was described as a mystery-dystopian-historical-ghost story middle grade. Yeah. Dystopian is still going strong, but WITH other elements. Dystopian+history, dystopian+fantasy, “reverse dystopian”. There’s a mould. Twist it into something fresh, especially in MG/YA where figuring out where in the bookstore/library to shelve it isn’t then a problem.
*Conversely, I saw almost NO hard scifi. There was one at… Randomhouse, I think it was, where I saw a very geeky-looking gentleman supervising a table of quite a few different ARCs. As I tend to do, I asked if he had any hard scifi. (Side note: I really, really love true hard scifi. Give me the gadgets and let’s talk about what makes it tick!) He suggested this one, something about a guy stranded on Mars (I forget right now), and how he struggles to survive. Yeah, I pressed, but is it hard scifi or David Brin pulling vampires out of his ass in the middle of an alien invasion “scifi” (Yes, I’m still bitter about that. The book was going SO WELL until SUDDENLY, VAMPIRES! Pretty much turned me off his writing, because that was the most blatant Deus Ex Machina I’ve EVER seen outside of anime.) The guy stammers and fumbles and goes, “Well, no, not really, but it’s really funny!”
(OK, I grabbed it anyway, because I felt bad for Awkward Man. We’ll see if when I get around to reading it if the book can overcome a REALLY bad sales rep)
*For MG particularly- Historicals that draw a connection to the modern in some way (celebrating the 50th anniversary of Some Event)/timeliness. Emphasis on how that can be incorporated into standards. (Tangent: I don’t understand the whole common core thing, I suspect many poor teaching methods aren’t helping the situation. But I also know that my schools in TX sucked in comparison to the ones Owen and a local friend went to, so attempting to improve the school system is always a great thing!)
*I am so slowly getting a dent put in at least some of the ARCs. Apologies, I haven’t forgotten those I’ve promised books to, working on it. The post office isn’t along the route I’ve been taking to work with all the bad weather (subway tunnels!), and I keep forgetting to go on the weekends.
Lately, there’s been quite a few tempests in teapots I’ve watched swirl around in author/writing/publishing circles. Authors unhappy with their publisher, publishers treating authors poorly, authors treating fans poorly, fans bashing publishers for not making the choice they wanted…. Look, people. It’s a nasty world out there. It’s a bit of a joke that all agents and editors do is sit around drinking on the company dime, but it’s true that they do spend a lot of time building relationships. I made a point at ALA to introduce myself to a few of the editors at houses I’d absolutely die to work at someday, because it’s always possible something might open up there and if I apply for it, I’d rather my name sound at least a little familiar to them. Are there bad publishers/bad editors/bad agents out there who will screw their clients, either intentionally or from simple lack of skill? Sure. Just like you have bad dentists who claim a 4 year old needs 26 cavities filled and 5 root canals because they waved a wand over the teeth and it detected them. But there’s a fine line between educating and mud slinging. Don’t get wrapped up in any tempests. I think we all have a list of people we enjoy working with and people we would not like to work with, based on the experiences we’ve heard from others. It’s a community. Even being in the shallows of it all, I hear things I am sworn to secrecy about. There are times where I want to say a million things more than I do, but I bite my tongue. Stirring the teapot won’t turn it into a cauldron.
But.. Just be careful out there. When you’re considering working with someone, observe how they treat others, especially when the other person points out a flaw/weakness/concern. If an author can’t take feedback and replies with anger (It’s understandable! But send that email to your crit partner instead, that’s what they’re for!!), it just makes them look bad. Walk away. Don’t get involved. Remember, ultimately, it’s a business. Act professionally. If you wouldn’t say it to your boss at your dayjob, don’t say it to an agent/editor/author. Be constructive in your feedback, and write it after your emotions have time to cool. No one wants to work with that person who lashes out every time someone disagrees with them, or tries to bully people into doing what they want, or an author who’s a diva to work with. Don’t be one of those people. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, get a third opinion, sleep on it, and see how you feel in the morning. There are dishonest people out there, and that’s why places like Writer Beware exist. But keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut, and you’ll learn far more. ;)