My 2010 Wishlist

The best books start here.

My 2010 Wishlist

wishlistIt feels natural to follow a post about what books I really enjoyed in 2009 with a post about the sorts of books I’d love to sign in 2010. And yes, I am actively seeking new talent! In other words, GIMME GIMME GIMME.

Ahem.

My interests as listed on the Upstart Crow website serve as a general outline of my tastes. Yes, I like books for boys. Yes, I’m crazy for middle grade. Yes, my tastes get a little more specific when it comes to teen. No, I’m not interested in signing the next Twilight, even though I’d love to swim through piles of money like Scrooge McDuck. No, I don’t currently represent picture books (please hold your rotten tomatoes until the end of the post).

If you really want to send a project that will make me drool, the following list should provide some guidance. I’m seeking books that are: 

  • Genuinely hilarious: Humor is tough. I get it. It’s also incredibly subjective. I’ve found, though, that because I say I’m looking for funny books for boys, I tend to see lots of submissions featuring farting, barfing, barfing that smells like a fart, or kids farting on barf. Sure, those things can be funny (even writing that last ridiculous sentence made me chuckle), but it takes more than gross humor to sustain an entire book. I want the sort of humor that makes me read sections out loud to annoyed friends and family. I want humor that arises out of witty dialogue, well-realized situations, and general madcapery (I just made that word up). Some books I read recently that really made me laugh include M.T. Anderson’s Whales on Stilts, Josh Lieb’s I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. 
  • Sports-themed, but about more than just sports: I started writing specific information and examples before realizing the topic of sports books will require a separate post. Simply put, I want books that are about more than just the featured sport and stay away from common clichés like the triumph of the underdog or the awesome-athlete-who-falls-from-grace-and-then-redeems-him/herself. More in a later blog update!
  • Classic: While this can apply to teen, I’m speaking more about middle grade here. I have a soft spot for books that feel like they could have been written thirty years ago without too many major adjustments. These types of stories often withstand the test of time and don’t become dated as easily as stories fully dependent on technology, trends, and dialect from 2010. Think about Harry Potter: aside from some technologies from the Muggle world, Harry and company could  have lived in the 1970s just as easily as the late 1990s/early 2000s.
  • Re-envisionings of a classic story/mythology: I’m crazy for the Percy Jackson books for how they pull from and send up Greek mythology, and I’m generally a sucker for works that reinvent or reimagine classic works.I’d love to be able to pitch a project by saying, “It’s King Lear set on a farm in Iowa from the daughters’ perspectives” (Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres) or “It’s Beowulf…WITH MONKEYS!” Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the point.
  • Steampunk: I know, I know, this is a buzz word being bandied about and could be a trend that comes and goes, but there’s something fun about steampunk books that I’m finding very compelling right now. In five months I could decide I’m over it, but for right now, I’d love to see a really cool, inventive book in this category.
  • Books that fill a hole in the market I wasn’t aware existed: A brief trip to the bookstore will show you the popular trends in childrens’ literature. Vampires, angels, and post-apocalyptic thrillers are dominating the shelves. Rather than write to the trend that currently exists, however, one way to potentially win me over is by convincing me that there’s a hot topic that hasn’t currently been tackled yet. I realize this goes directly against my desire for timeless stories and against my general advice to avoid chasing trends, but occasionally there are trends among kids that we may not even be fully aware of from our isolated New York bubbles. Are kids joining invention clubs? Playing non-stop canasta? Really into the early recordings of Lou Reed? I’m being flippant here, but I am legitimately interested in what kids are drawn to. Of course, identifying these trends is only the first step: you’ll need to then create a compelling story and prove you can maintain a career as a writer beyond one manuscript to really catch my eye.

So! There you have some of the things that will help separate you from the pack when it comes to submitting works to me. I hope to update the types of books I’m looking for periodically when I find something else I’m seeking. I look forward to seeing what you have!

  1. One of the things I like so much about your agency is how specific you all are in your tastes. Thank you. :)

    Also, would fairy tale-based fantasy fit in there anywhere? Something along the lines of Shannon Hale or Gail Carson Levine.

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  2. Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is steampunk?

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  3. or kids farting on barf. Sure, those things can be funny (even writing that last ridiculous sentence made me chuckle),

    heh heh That line made me chuckle, too. Well, OK, I admit it–I laughed out loud.

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  4. Hmmm, I’ve got the boy protag with the baseball as the background story…I just don’t love it yet. I’m going back in and switching it up. I’ll get back to you in 6-8 months. :)

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  5. Also….Wimpy Kid is a BIG “YES” in our house. Who knew? I think it actually pulled my non-writing 11 year old son out of a sort of scholastic depression once he figured out it was acceptable to doodle and write funny comments in a book of his own. He cartoons as often as possible now AND can actually entertain himself with a mere pencil and paper. A miracle!!!

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  6. Bree, I’m pretty sure steampunk is a fantasy/sci-fi subgenre that combines fantastical and/or sci-fi elements with a steam-powered world, like Victorian-era England. Think airships (lots of airships) and gaslights and the like.

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  7. Thanks Krista.

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  8. Madcapery? Genius. I’m so using that. I should’ve used it in my steampunkish MG. I did invent the curse word, crum diddley. Thanks for the specifics.

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  9. What about a story about samari ? and ninja’s? I wrote something based on that like 5 year’s ago…..thought I should edit haha maybe sometimes soon. ^.^”

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  10. Wow! I’m really hyped now. I sent you my query letter a couple weeks ago after reading your “wants” on your other site. Now, after reading this expanded list, I KNOW I made the right decision. (especially the steampunk item!)

    Thanks so much for posting such a detailed list. I think other agents could get much more appropriate submissions by following this example.

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  11. It’s coming it’s coming but I’m only half-way done! Funny-classic- MG-boys-a little bit o’ farting–but only half way done and then of course 6 months of critiquing and editing . . . don’t go anywhere, Chris. I’ll get it to you asap! And then we can roll in the dough like that McDuck guy.

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  12. You mentioned KING LEAR set on a farm and told from the daughter’s perspective. That would be the tale from the southern Appalachian Mountains called “Like Meat Loves Salt.” I’m a writer, but I’m also a professional storyteller, and that’s one that I tell.

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  13. Postscript to my previous comment:

    As a matter of fact, many of the tales from the Appalachian oral tradition have motifs common in classics such as BEOWULF, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” from THE CANTERBURY TALES, etc. Hmmmm….might make a nice MG series, methinks.

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  14. Hi, I want to submit, I have a VERY funny children’s book,not just my humble opinion, but I can’t get past setting up an email account with “mac” ? How else can I submit?

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  15. Thanks for such a specific, clear wish/want list!

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  16. Since I’m so dumb about blogs, etal, not sure if this will get through to you. I’m excited to read your wants info. Like I’ve been writing YOUR stuff for several years now! You will hear from me shortly. Classic fairy tale, short story collection, contemporary problem-solving novels…all MG. Wow!

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  17. Hi Chris,

    I’ve been enjoying your posts, and I was excited to come across this one! You’ll be hearing from me later this spring with my YA novel THE HERO. For boys. Sports but not about sports. Classic feel with subtle humor (think HOLES). Fall from grace–but no redemption. And no farting.

    Thanks for the great blog!

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  18. ‘Fantasy that doesn’t take itself too seriously’ – well, that’s my manuscript all over the place. It’s called, DARGETFIRE – THE DISCOVERY. Another mention about my fantasy world is it’s ‘timeless.’

    Some humor when an eleven-year-old’s goofy persona is matched with a new friend’s dry personality. The ying-yang interaction is fun.

    I really enjoyed reading about you and learning about your likes – right up my alley. Hope you enjoy my query I sent.

    Thanks for being so helpful!

    Reply

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