My first Featured Guest, on –, was agent Wendy Schmalz. Wendy and I met through our mutual friend and her client Sandy Asher when Sandy wrote a play inspired by my poetry, SOMEBODY CATCH MY HOMEWORK. On that play and a subsequent one written by Sandy based on a book of poetry we co-wrote (JESS AND GRACE: A BEST FRIENDS STORY), Wendy and I have become friends.
Here’s an update from Wendy. After that I’ll post her original remarks. If you have questions or comments, please use the boxes below.
Thanks for asking for news from me.
The buzz right now is that thriller and mysteries are going to be hot for the YA and middle grade markets. Dystopian books have about reached the saturation point, but publishers seem interested in science fiction.
I’m happy to say that some of the books by my authors I mentioned the last time you checked in with me are doing quite well:
FLESH AND BLOOD SO CHEAP by Albert Marrin his the tri fecta with three starred reviews – PW, SLJ and Booklist
NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING got stars from PW and Kirkus.
TILLIE THE TERRIBLE SWEDE by Sue Stauffacher got a starred PW.
Sarah Miller’s THE LOST CROWN garnered a Kirkus star.
And April Henry’s GIRL, STOLEN and Bonnie Shimko’s THE PRIVATE THOUGHTS OF AMELIA E RYE were both YALSA 2011 Best Books for Young Adults.
Happy summer, David!
And now, here’s what Wendy had to say in her first time as my Featured Guest.
As promised, today my guest is New York literary agent, Wendy Schmalz. I’ve worked with Wendy and know her as a professional and as a friend. If you have questions or thoughts, that’s what the comment section below is for! Wendy opened her own agency in 2002. Before that she was a principal at Harold Ober Associates. She represents a small, eclectic group of writers.
Hi Wendy. Thank you for being my first guest. Welcome to the blog.
Hi, David, and thanks for inviting me. I hope your readers will find my remarks of interest.
I love books. I love everything about them – how they smell, how they feel, how they look on a shelf. I love the words. I’m infatuated with my Sony Reader. It smells like pleather, it’s stiff in my hands and it won’t stand on a shelf. But it’s got all the words.
I first got my Reader so I could download manuscripts and not have to schlep heavy paper manuscripts with me wherever I went. It wasn’t long before I was downloading published books. To my utter astonishment, it’s become my preferred way of reading. It’s more than just the portability. It’s my personal movable library.
For my entire career in publishing people have been predicting the death of books. First it was CD ROMS (Boy was everyone wrong about that one!). Now people predict ebooks as the beginning of the end. I think it’s the beginning of an expansion of reading, especially for older middle grade and YA novels. Kids prefer reading on screen. The more ebooks we offer them the more they’ll read. I also think it will result in more sales. I might lend friends a copy of a book, but I’m not going to lend my reader. They’ll have to get their own download.
What I am concerned about is the fate of literary fiction for children. While “quiet” books have been difficult to place for a while now, it’s been much, much harder during this recession. In the last several months, I’ve seen a spike in queries from authors who have had several books published (often to starred reviews and awards), but have been cut loose by their publishers because of mid-list sales. More often than not, I have to tell them that I can’t do anything to help them. High concept is what sells. I by no means think that high concept equals dreck. Many, many commercial books are extremely well written. Publishing is a business and I’m part of that business. It’s how I make my living and I want my business to be prosperous. I do, though, think there’s a beauty in literary fiction that children are going to miss out on if the current trend doesn’t change.
As an agent, I look for books that are well written and that appeal to my personal taste. I’ve never been a fan of traditional fantasy or science fiction so I’m not a good judge of those genres. I focus on older middle grade and YA fiction. I’m not taking on any new picture book writers.
People often ask me if vampire books and urban fantasy are on their way out. Clones of TWILIGHT and other huge sellers are out, but an original take on vampires or urban fantasy or any other genre will always sell. Anyone can copy; a good writer finds a way to be innovative.
David. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit on your blog.
Wendy, many thanks for taking the time to share some of your views.