I've talked about this before, but it seems to get a lot of questions in different forms. Here's the specific question from tumblr:

I'm sorry you keep getting questions about YA dystopia genre and I'm now just adding to it, but I've had a YA dystopian idea for a bit and I've shuffled it back because of the issues with dystopia being dead. However the couple of people who have heard the basic premise have been really enthusiastic about it and pushing me to write it despite me warning them about it. Is it worth it to work on it now or wait like I've been doing because of the market?
Unfortunately I can’t answer this specific question.

I also can't answer what subgenre someone should write or what is the kind of book that would be most likely to sell. 

The truth is it's hard to sell books. A lot of people are writers and it's hard to get published. It's not easier if you're writing picture books than adult science fiction or vice versa. It isn't the genre that gets a book sold, it's the book itself.

I am of the opinion that writers should write because they love it. If you keep writing and keep trying to get published it will happen—eventually.

If you are passionate about a ms that is in a dead genre, write it. Who knows how long it will take before you finish? When you finish revising and it is ready for the eyes of agents, query. The worst thing that can happen is that no one will offer representation, but you will learn from both the writing and the querying process. It will make you a better writer.

When you finish writing this ms, WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. This is my advice no matter what a writer is working on. Writers should always write something else. The more writing you do, the better you will become. And putting all your hopes and dreams into one project is a recipe for heartbreak. (Even if it does grab and agent and get published). You should always have something else.

Also, I cannot predict the market. There are always some things that surprise us. I can say that I’m sick of dystopian novels. I can say that editors tell me “no more dystopian novels” but I can also tell you that people said that about angels right before Laini Taylor wrote Daughter of Smoke & Bone which was clearly a huge exception (albeit it’s an exception because 1. It’s Laini Taylor 2. it’s unique and 3. OMG the writing).

All of this is to say, you have to make your own decisions about what you want to write.
Here's the actual question:

What's the deal with submitting on proposal? Does this only happen with a book option? Or can a previously (traditionally) pubbed author submit on proposal to anyone after their first book? Or does it depend on the agent + editor?
It actually depends more on the author. For a few reasons.

Here’s the easy/obvious one. If a previously (traditionally) published author wants to submit on a proposal, the better their sales record, the more likely a proposal is sufficient.

For instance, Stephen King can submit on proposal. (Actually Stephen King can write a line on a napkin and probably get an offer. Or even just call his editor and say “I want to write another book, how about it?” This is because Stephen King is a well-known and well-established brand. I mean, he's Stephen King, he has a huge track record. His name sells books.)

But other bestselling authors who are not quite at Stephen King level can also submit on proposal. Authors who have won big awards (think the printz or the national book award) can very easily submit on proposal. Authors whose book sales are on an upward track can submit on proposal. Authors who are submitting to an editor they already worked with can submit on proposal.

Whereas authors who have not published in a long time or have “midlist” sales—they could submit a proposal, but the chance of getting an offer is going to be higher if they had a full ms.

The other reason is depends on the author is let’s face it: some authors are better at synopsis writing than others. I have some authors that can write a really engaging synopsis full of tension and great characterization. And I have some authors who really struggle with that—partly because they’re not big outliners—and their synopses can make their story sound convenient or unrealistic or just not that interesting. 

As an agent I can help them edit their synopsis and try to fix it but sometimes it might just be easier for them to write more of the book so that they know where it’s going. Again—this is a bigger factor with authors who are newer and perhaps not as established sales-wise.
Okay, this was the question from Tumblr:

If you like a MS, but it needs work/revising, how likely are you to offer? Or would it be more likely you'd ask for a R&R?

Here's the problem with this question: "If you like a MS..."

If I like a ms, I’m not going to offer.

Here’s a mythbuster: there are not a lot of TERRIBLE manuscripts that come across my inbox. 95% of what I read is decent. It’s okay. But let’s face it, okay isn’t good enough. It has to be great. I have to LOVE it.

I recently had lunch with Alexis Bass and her editor Rosemary Brosnan and I was telling them that when I read her manuscript (pulled it out of the slush pile!), LOVE AND OTHER THEORIES, I read it in one sitting. I couldn’t stop! Then I emailed her to say how much I liked it and that I wanted to talk to her. And then I was freaking out because she didn’t respond right away. I kept checking my email and refreshing and worrying if my email didn’t sound enthusiastic enough.

That I was that obsessed with the ms told me that I HAD TO WORK ON IT. I loved it that much. And Alexis and I did do some revising before I sent it on submission, as I do with almost all of my clients.

What separates and offer from an R&R is the level of work. I ask for an R&R if I love an idea and see a lot of potential. If I have a really great vision for a book but it’s so much work that I’m not sure if the author can make that happen then I’m not going to offer yet.
Recently I got a question on tumblr about submissions and what the process is like. It's a rather lengthy answer so I figured I'd talk about it here.

Once a writer signs with an agent--and after they go through any revisions, be it a polish or a more lengthy edit--the next step is going on submission.

In short, this means their agent will submit the manuscript (fiction) or proposal (non-fiction) to editors.

What this means...

I can only speak for myself, but the process actually starts when I first sign a new client. During my first read, before I've even decided whether I should represent a project, I'll be thinking about submission. Obviously, if I'm thinking ahead, I'm thinking how much I love the story, but I'm also thinking about which editors will love the manuscript as well.

After I sign an author, I make up a spreadsheet. It looks a little like this:

PublisherEditorDateStatusNotes
RazorbillGillian Levinson
ScholasticMallory Kass
HMHAdah Nuchi

(This sheet is blank because it's fake, and I'm using these editors because I work with them on recently released books--Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, and A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier).

I think about what imprints are the right fit for the book and what editors at those imprints would fall in love the manuscript like I have. (One of the things I have to keep in mind is the different rules of submitting to each house--like you can't submit to two editors at the same imprint and some house you can submit to multiple imprints and some you can't.)

Then when the manuscript is all ready and polished, I pitch the manuscript to each of the editors on the list. Pitching could mean calling or talking to them in person if we have drinks or lunch or if I know them really well and we've worked together before, I might send an email.

After I pitch the project, ideally an editor will be as excited as I am and ask to see it. In that case I'd send them the manuscript with a written pitch (sort of like a query). If the editor isn't interested (maybe they just signed something similar), I would call and pitch to someone else instead.

Once the manuscript is with everyone on my list, it's officially on submission.

But that isn't the end of the process.

I'd love to say that I always hear back within a few weeks but that isn't true. Just like writers wait for agents to respond at the querying stage, we agents have to wait for editors to read and respond. Sometimes it happens quickly (there are times when I've gotten responses in a week or less!) but other times it takes weeks even months.

This is where following up comes in.

I follow up with editors (how soon after submission is based on the project or if there's any news and also based on what's happening in life or in publishing). This reminds them how much I love the project and makes sure the ms doesn't slip through the cracks.

When responses come in, I usually ask the author how they want me to handle it. Do they want to see the responses or do they want me to just tell them about it or do they only want to hear from me when I have good news, etc.

Once the book is on submission, there are a variety of different possible outcomes:

An Auction: This is where multiple editors are making offers.

(It's not like an auction at an auction house or anything. It's largely done over email). I'll set a date and a time, and ask every editors to get me their first bid--or offer--by then. Once all the bids are in, I'll go back to all the under bidders and ask for more and that will keep going until we have the best bid from each house. I've had auctions with two houses that last one round and I had an auction once that was seven houses and a different auction that lasted a week long.

Auctions can be stressful for everyone involved, but they also leave room for a lot of choice on the author's part. It's about more than just advance. Royalties, pub schedule, rights granted, the editor's vision for the book, etc--all of these are factors that I'll discuss with an author before the author makes his/her decision about what offer to accept. (I'll give my opinion/advise, but it's always the author's decision).

A Pre-Empt: This is where an editor makes a "offer you can't refuse."

Sometimes the editor might be the only editor to see the project. Other times they're just so excited about it that they come in with an offer before anyone else. Pre-empt offers are often higher or better than a first bid for an auction, but that doesn't mean that all pre-empts are huge. A quiet literary middle grade for instance isn't going to get the same advance as a huge commercial YA novel. But the reasons to accept a pre-empt are usually that it's the best offer including advance and terms and the editor's and publisher's enthusiasm.

An Offer

This is the most common positive outcome--it only takes one!

In all three of these cases, as an agent, I'm doing a lot of negotiation. And again, the advance is one of those negotiating points but royalties, publication schedule, subrights splits, rights granted, etc are things that I'm asking about. Sometimes I'm even asking for specific language to be in the contract a later date.

No Offer

Hopefully this isn't the outcome, but it does happen--more than you'd think. We all announce the manuscripts that do sell, but we don't announce the ones that don't. If there isn't an offer, I usually work with the author to revise and do another round of submission or I work with the author on their next project.
Chelsea Fine's amazing new adult novel, Best Kind of Broken, is available today!


This amazing and beautifully written novel made me laugh out loud, swoon, and even weep a little. It's funny and poignant and romantic and even downright steamy at times. 

When I first offered Chelsea representation, she had published both Sophie & Carter and Anew by herself. The books had been so successful and done so well that she had a film option for The Archers of Avalon trilogy and the producer optioning the rights suggested her to me. 

I'm indebted to him for that.

Because I read Chelsea's novels and new that I had to work with her. She's fiercely talented and I knew that not only would fans love her, but that we'd definitely be able to sell her future projects into traditional houses if that's the route she wanted to go. 

Best Kind of Broken sold at auction and it's an insanely beautiful novel.

Here's the description:

Pixie and Levi haven't spoken in nearly a year when they find themselves working--and living--at the same inn in the middle of nowhere. Once upon a time, they were childhood friends. But that was before everything went to hell. And now things are...awkward.

All they want to do is avoid each other, and their past, for as long as possible. But now that they're forced to share a bathroom, and therefore a shower, keeping their distance from one another becomes less difficult than keeping their hands off each other. Welcome to the hallway of awkward tension and sexual frustration, folks. Get comfy. It’s going to be a long summer.

Congratulations to the fabulously talented Makiia Lucier. Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, is out today!



Two summers ago, I convinced Sarah Goldberg to be my assistant. It was just for the summer because she had to go back to Columbia in the fall for her doctorate (that slacker). I definitely got the better end of the deal. 

Sarah read the query for A Death-Struck Year and new she needed to request it for me. Then she read the novel and told me that I had to read it. She was, of course, right.

This novel is truly amazing. It's beautifully written and incredibly poignant. 

Here's the description:

In the grip of the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, not even the strong survive.

The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast--but Cleo Berry knows it is a world away from the safety of her home in Portland, Oregon. Then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic.

Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she cannot ignore the call for help. In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history, and leaves readers asking: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself?
I have two fabulous sequels coming out tomorrow!



Mindee Arnett's The Nightmare Dilemma, which might be even better than her debut (The Nightmare Affair) is out tomorrow.

As is Kara Taylor's Wicked Little Secrets the follow up to the fabulous Prep School Confidential (and let me say that Anne Dowling is my fictional best friend.