Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is anything scarier than a teenager?


Thanks so much for having me today! A quick intro for those who may not know me yet: I worked at Dorchester Publishing editing romances and Westerns for 10 years before having the wonderful opportunity to join Sourcebooks last month. I adore romance and I’m really looking forward to meeting you all and further growing the Casa list.

I’ll also be acquiring for our young adult imprint, Sourcebooks Fire. And I’ve been having so much fun taking a whole new look at the genre. Raging hormones, crazy friends, a new driver’s license, college pressure…being a teenager can be a really scary time. And being a parent of a teen—whoa boy! That doesn’t even take into account turning into a werewolf, rescuing your family in a dystopian world, getting pregnant, a wish-granting crystal ball, dealing with death, a demon attack, or any of the number of other things we see in today’s YA market.

Deb has drilled in her romance criteria so that I think many regular readers here can probably recite them in their sleep. ;-) But what are the rules for YA? Do teens have any rules at all? Why, yes—yes, they do. And I’m not talking about a midnight curfew.

The young adult fiction I’m looking for should have the following:

· 60,000-90,000 words

· Protagonists who are 15-19 and allow for potential adult cross-over appeal

· Characters readers care about and can relate to in some way

· An authentic voice for the audience

· Powerful, credible world-building (which applies to non-paranormal/fantasy/dystopian too! )

· A fresh premise with a marketing hook that can be conveyed in 2-3 sentences

· An age-appropriate romantic element/boy-girl relationship, even if it’s not the main focus of the story

Submissions for YA or romance can be sent directly to me at leah.hultenschmidt[at]sourcebooks.com. I prefer to have the manuscript and a full synopsis (actually, you know what’s really scary? a synopsis that doesn’t give me the end!) as Word attachments, with the “cover” letter in the body of the email.

Can't wait to hear from you!

45 comments:

  1. Leah

    Welcome to the Casa Blog! I'm so happy to have you here!

    Robin :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. How de doo, Leah, and welcome. I think if I were going to write YA, I'd add a criterion that might be obvious to everybody else: The book has to empower the teen audience for its legitimate strengths. There's so much wonderful about teens that gets little press: They have passion, they see the world with fresh (irreverent?) eyes, their humor is terrific, they're creative because they don't know or respect all the limits, on and on... If you want to have a fascinating conversation, brace a teen with a philosophical question. It's WONDERFUL to see this audience being re-discovered by the commercial fiction press.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Glad to have you with us, Leah!

    I read a lot of teen books and one of the killers for me is when the teen protagonist doesn't grow with the story, or has others do everything for them to win the day. I love YA stories and I think it's fun to see how the heroes of today came to be, like the teen version of Indiana Jones and what heroic feats he had accomplished before he became a man. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Welcome Leah. It's good to hear your "voice" and I'll look forward to meeting you face to face.

    Grace and Terry:Interesting comments. I've read very little YA but I cut my eye teeth on Robert A Heinlein's YA science fiction--except I didn't know it was YA! I was in my twenty and I just thought they were good books.

    Looking back, I see the protagonist were teenagers using teenaged strengths, as Grace points out. And as Terry urges, they learned, grew, and rose to true heroic stature by the end of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Grace Burrowes - I completely agree. The voice, the humor, and some of the weighty issues explored with deft sensitivity and compassion in today's fiction are amazing. It's great to see a reflection of *real* people. (P.S. - I'm reading THE HEIR now and loving it!)

    @Terry Spear - Character growth is a necessity in *any* genre as far as I'm concerned. But one of the things I love about YA is that the teen years are so formative. The main characters are really starting to figure out the people they want to be. So it's a very natural time to show that growth.

    @Mary Margret (& everybody!) - Can't wait to meet you too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Leah! It's great to have you on our SB team!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good morning, Leah! I adore YA fiction(considering what I write that might shock and amaze). I read a lot of it. I used to teach high school and I also have one of those scary teenagers at home. I actually like teenagers. I know, weird. Watching them emerge from their self-involved childhood world is amazing. Some get there faster than others.

    If I ever finish writing my YA novel, I might send it to you. Under a different pen name of course. LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello, Leah! I was thrilled to hear you'd joined Sourcebooks, and look forward to the books your touch will enhance. As a bookseller as well as an author, I believe the YA market seems on the verge of another major explosion, this one with a renewed focus on the "everyday" stuff that is more than that for the teen experiencing it. What's your take on this?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Welcome Leah! Can't wait to see what you add to the mix :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi, Leah! Welcome!

    Is Sourcebooks more interested in YA series or stand-alone books, or are both equally desirable?

    What about POV? Is 1st person preferred? What about multiple 1st person POVs (like several main characters) in one book?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Leah,
    I want to say thanks for the opportunity to submit to you. I send you my m/s last month and look forward to hearing from you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Leah,
    It’s so good to see you here. The Casa blog is great. I also enjoyed your recent post on Romantic Reading titled, “Inside an Acquisitions Meeting.” The information gave me a better understanding of what I hope will happen with my submission. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Leah! Sooooooo glad to see you here!

    As for YA - can we please not have a 100+ year old guy watch a fifteen year old girl sleep? With or without her knowing, that's just creepy!

    See you tomorrow at the NJRW Conference!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Leah! Great post. I was wondering, what's the typical turn around time for you?
    Thanks!
    Paige :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Welcome to Casababes, Leah!

    I love YA and so glad there's many more choices out there.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Come to think of it, Leah, teenagers are scary! But every once in a while they will take off their masks and then they are actually quite nice! Good luck with the YA line.
    Amelia

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Leah, I'm editing my YA romance, and I'm letting myself write my story, but at the back of my mind I'm struggling with the sex aspect in the genre. How much sex is okay, how explicit? I know there are no hard and fast rules, but maybe any guidance you can offer will be appreciated. If my characters are 18 and in the second half of their senior year, do I still need to close the door or can I write it the way I would my contemporary single titles?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Leah -

    Not writing Young Adult at the moment but just wanted to wave Hi.

    ReplyDelete
  19. (waving) Hi, Leah! Welcome! So glad to have you here.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Olivia - We've had a lot of office buzz about BACKSTAGE PASS. I can only imagine your YA novel! ;-)

    Which brings me to...
    @Writer, regarding sex scenes--Just like the romance genre, the heat level is going to be determined by the characters and the tone of the story. You don't want to throw an explicit scene into an otherwise sweet story. There are no hard and fast rules, though a sex scene will probably get a 13+ age rating instead of 12+.

    ReplyDelete
  21. @JoMare - Thanks for stopping in. I'd be interested to hear what you're seeing as a bookseller. To me, there seem to be two distinct YA camps: paranormal/fantasy/dystopian and contemporary or "everyday" issues. I love some of the creativity that goes into creating a whole new paranormal world, but at the same time most of the stuff I've bought recently is firmly set in this realm. I do think it's speaking to people more and more. And it's getting harder to stand out in paranormal. That said, I'm still looking for it--it just has to have a great hook with writing that pulls me in immediately.

    ReplyDelete
  22. @ShanaGalen - Every book needs to stand on its own whether it's part of a planned series or not. I'm looking for both types. And no preference on POV, as long as there's a distinctive voice.

    ReplyDelete
  23. @DianeGarner - Thanks for stopping by the blog. For others who want to check it out, it's www.romanticreading.net.

    @JudiFennell - I'll definitely keep that tip in mind. See you in NJ!

    ReplyDelete
  24. @PaigeC - I try for 8 weeks or so on turning around a proposal. Usually if it takes longer it's because I'm taking time to read more.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @DonnaMacMeans - No matter what you write, I adore you. Thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Leah- LMAO! My YA only has a couple rather awkward kisses and no sex at all. Shocking, I know! It's more about coping with your big brother being off at war and how to deal when he comes home less than whole. There is a little romance in there (friends to more than friends) and a WHOLE lot of angst and humor. I just need to find the time to finish it. Too many rock stars on the brain these days. On second thought, there can never be too many rock stars...

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Leah- Do you have a preference for subgenre in romance? If we submit to you and it's not right for you, do you offer it to Deb?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hello from Oklahoma, Leah! Can't wait to meet you!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi Leah!

    Great post!

    Have you found any diamonds in the slush yet since you've opened for queries?

    I love your blog - I love hearing about publishing from the inside.

    Another off-topic question - do you read submissions in order of receipt or the ones that pique your interest first?

    Shelley

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thrilled to see your post Leah, and I'm also excited to get more involved with the blogs 'round these parts, what a great group! :)

    Wish I could see you at the New Jersey conference this weekend but I'll be busy presenting at the Brooklyn Indie Market Steampunk festival. (And I think that might be the more professionally appropriate place to show off the new skirts, corsets and hats I just got from Mexico City...) :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi Leah,

    So glad to see you at Sourcebooks!

    Tracey

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi, Leah.

    Great to see you here.

    Lucie J.

    ReplyDelete
  33. @Shannyn - Good question. The minute I say I don't care for a particular subgenre, I'll find something brilliant that I absolutely love. So I read anything and everything. Deb & I work really closely together, so if I feel something has a definite marketing hook but maybe isn't "me," I'd certainly pass it on for her to read. And anything Jane Austen related goes to her because she's such an expert in that area.

    ReplyDelete
  34. @Shelley - I have bought one project from slush here, and several that I had originally bought from slush at Dorchester where authors were able to get their rights back. Generally, I read in order of submission. Authors' option books and agents I work with frequently always get priority, though. And if a query letter really piques my interest, I'll often move it to the top of the pile. Another reason to really polish that up!

    ReplyDelete
  35. @Leanna - Be sure to take lots of pics at that Steampunk Festival!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I agree about Paranormal, Leah. I imagine it's difficult for an author to stand out with so many terrific urban fantasy series out there, in YA, Romance and SciFi. In my store, Historicals amd straight Contemporaries are enjoying a resurgence. Lately I've ordered the backlists of authors of both sub-genres for customers, which tells me customers are looking for something new releases might not be providing. You might recall looking at a Medieval Paranormal of mine a couple of years ago, but I've set that aside to focus on Contemporary Series and my Historicals. I believe you're currently considering my Regency Private-Eye story right now, as a matter of fact! I will say that customers seem to be reading across sub-genres more than ever before, which is very encouraging. Thanks again for being here!

    ReplyDelete
  37. So good to see you at Sourcebooks, Leah. Wishing you the very best, and looking forward to seeing you around the conference circuit.

    Vijaya Schartz

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi Leah,

    Excellent post, thanks for the information. It's fabulous of you to be accepting open submissions. My question is, if after we've submitted to you an agent requests our full and/or offers to represent us is that something you want to know?

    ReplyDelete
  39. Welcome Leah! How exciting that you are looking for YA. I'm not writing anything like that now, but maybe someday!

    ReplyDelete
  40. @Heather - Yes, if you sign with agent, please do let any editor who has the submission know of the update.

    ReplyDelete
  41. The world works in wonderful ways, Leah. So very glad you have joined the Sourcebooks team! It's terrific to be closer in touch again. Big hug.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi Leah,

    If you passed on a premise you liked because it wasn't quite there and needed a bit more editing, would you consider seeing it again if the writer worked with an editor to address the problems of the novel?

    Thanks for answering questions and I hope you have many successes at Sourcebooks.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Scary teenagers are my favorite! Did you guys see that sketch on SNL this past Saturday? We posted about it today. HILARIOUS and so true.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I don't write YA (though I have a lot of YA readers who maybe shouldn't be reading my books) so I found it fascinating to read the guidelines.

    Thanks Leah,

    ReplyDelete
  45. @Brenda - Because of the shear volume of submissions I receive, I generally won't go back to a project I've passed unless I've specifically requested rewrites. But I'm always happy to see something new.

    ReplyDelete