I read over a hundred books during the course of 2013--in addition to my own clients' books of course. Some of them are books that came out this year and others came out a while ago. 

Here are my top ten favorite non New Leaf books. Each of these books are ones that I could read fast enough. A few of them had me up all night. All of them were on my mind long after I stopped reading. If any of them are books you haven't read, you should.

What are your favorite reads from this past year? I'd love to have more recommendations for next year!

In March, a few years ago, I got a fabulous query by Rebecca Behrens for her debut novel. I knew within just the first few lines that I had to read this book.

Here's the query:

Dear Ms. Townsend, 
fump • \fÉ™mp\ v. 1 slang a dump or desert one’s (platonic) friend ‘Keisha made the swim team so now she is totally going to fump Annie’ b get rid of unceremoniously ‘poor thing got fumped by her best friend’ c friend-dumped.
Think there’s nothing worse than getting dumped? Try getting fumped—at least when it’s some guy who's breaking your heart, you can rely on your best friend for a shoulder to cry on and emergency fro-yo trips. When it’s said friend who’s doing the deserting, who can you turn to for support? Your pet hamster? Your parentals? In my young-adult novel Fumped (71,924 words), whip-smart sophomore Jocelyn Heller holds nothing back as she retells the story of how she got fumped by her best friend. 
Jocelyn and Alexis have been best friends their whole lives, although they’ve grown into two very different peas sharing a pod. By the start of sophomore year, however, Alexis has ditched Jocelyn to hang out with the popular, vapid Lacey and her soccer-playing boyfriend. Jocelyn is desperate to prove to her best friend that she can fit in with the new crowd, despite the fact that she cares more for books than for booze and has never had a boyfriend. Yet all of Jocelyn’s efforts to win back Alexis’s favor only lead to more cruel exclusions. Gradually, Jocelyn realizes that she’s more suited to new friends from her Art Metal class and the drama club (including the crush-worthy Peter) and that perhaps the BFF she’s fighting for isn’t really deserving of her loyalty and friendship. Equal parts introspective and angst-y, witty and heartbreaking, Jocelyn shows how getting fumped was both the worst thing that could happen to her and possibly the best. 
Fumped is my debut YA novel, and yes—I once had firsthand experience with the subject matter. I also have a BA from Northwestern University and an MA in Comparative Literature from the Graduate Center (CUNY). I’m currently a textbook editor at Macmillan/McGraw-Hill in New York City, where I have focused on literature products for grades K-12. I am a freelance writer and have been published in American Cheerleader magazine, which has a readership of 1.2 million and is targeted toward the teen athlete, and its business publication, Cheer Biz News. I’m also an active member of the Association of American Publishers’ Young to Publishing networking group, through which I have formed relationships with editors at Knopf-Doubleday, Dial Books for Young Readers, and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. 
I look forward to sharing Jocelyn’s story with you, and I know you’ll love her as much as I do. Hers is a fresh and quirky voice, and she tells her story with humor and raw emotion. Getting fumped might have sucked really hard, but you’ll see that it gave Jocelyn the catalyst she needed to start being herself. The first five pages of Fumped follow this query and the full manuscript is available upon request. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. 
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Rebecca Behrens

Now, here's what I love about it.

Fumped. It's a fabulous concept and term and I loved how Rebecca defined it before the query. It drew me in immediately, let me know what the story was going to be about--but it did so in a creative way. 

I also love the beginning of the query--that first paragraph has such a fabulous voice and is a (rare) example of rhetorical questions that work really well. (Trust me, I normally hate them). Right then and there it won me over and I requested it. 

Once I'd requested the novel, I read and loved it and offered Rebecca representation. Unfortunately at the time, Fumped was a little too sweet for contemporary YA (which was a pretty tough market), but Rebecca when on to write When Audrey Met Alice which we sold to Sourcebooks and comes out in February.

It's a different story but it has the same fabulous writing and humor that I loved about Fumped.
The first novel in Mindee Arnett's fabulous new science fiction series, Avalon, comes out in the new year. And it is amazing! Of course, you have to wait for it, but you're in luck because Mindee has a prequel novella that's out today!

Proxy is an action-packed introduction to a world like nothing readers have seen before, and it sets a spark to the powder keg that will explode in Mindee Arnett's sci-fi thriller Avalon.

And you're in luck because it's only $0.99!

Here's the official description:

If you need something stolen from any star system in the Confederation, you need look no further than the Shades. Jeth Seagrave and his band of teenage mercenaries have been making a name for themselves for being able to steal anything—and for disappearing before anyone is the wiser. 

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Thanks to everyone who entered the Bitter Pill writing contest. Here are the best of the best!

Best Voice
Ashland @ 4:26 pm

Best Last Line
Rebecca Fields @ 4:27 pm

Best Criminal
Carol @ 12:01 am

Best Family Relationship
fordhamgirl1 @ 7:47 pm

Best Tone
Madseasongirl @ 10:02 pm

Best Death Scene
The Will to Write @ 10:11 pm

Best Consolidation of Words (or Most Concise!)
J. Lenni Dorner @ 12:41 pm

Best Twist
Ravina Patt @ 11:45 pm

And of these, the winner is Ashland!

That bitter bitch done did it again. She took the pill, swallowed it whole.

Only this time I didn't stop her.

Naw, I'd had too much of her fat mouth, criticizing me every other breath 'cause I was laid off. Broke. A deadbeat, as she was more than happy to tell anyone who'd listen.

But that ain't the case, not that she'd ever admit it. I got tired of her misunderstanding my position, so I just took a step back and let her do it.

Now the sheriff's almost here and I've got to wonder—will he see it my way?

Ashland--shoot me an email with your address and I'll send you a copy of Bitter Pill by Stacey Kade and we can talk critique!
Lisa Desrochers' next new adult novel, A Little Too Much is out today!

(Another super hot cover, right?)

This is the companion novel to A Little Too Far, which if you haven't read yet, you totally need to. While there is some character crossover you don't have to read these books in order. 

Now, when I first read A Little Too Far, I asked Lisa if she had ideas for other books. She did, and I offered that information to interested editors when we were on submission. But it wasn't until Lisa's lovely editor, Amanda, had read A Little Too Far and said, "What's Alessandro's story?" that I realized the second book should feature him.

Lisa, of course, had a story for him. And this is it. 

I've said it before, but I owe a lot to Sarah Goldberg. The same summer that she found the fabulously talented Mindee Arnett and Sara Polsky in my slush pile, she also found Makiia Lucier.

Now, historical YA is actually pretty tough. It's tough to get the teenage sensibility just right while also staying true to the historical time period. As a result, I was wary of historical YA. I wasn't opposed to it, but it wasn't something I was looking for either. For me to take on a historical project it would have to be something with amazing characters and really great plot and outstanding writing.

Then I got this query and Sarah said to me, "How are you feeling about YA historical...?" I took a look and told her I was feeling good about this one.

Here's the query:

Dear Ms. Townsend:

In the fall of 1918, Cleo Berry is completing her studies at St. Helen’s Hall, one of the oldest boarding schools in Portland, Oregon. When soldiers arrive at nearby Camp Lewis, they transport the Spanish Influenza, a mysterious strain of flu that strikes down young men and women with swift, shocking brutality.

Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down. Cleo disobeys her headmistress’s quarantine order, choosing to wait out the epidemic, and her family’s impending return, in the relative safety of their empty home. But it isn’t long before the Red Cross launches a plea for volunteers. For deeply personal reasons, Cleo finds she cannot ignore the call for help.

Her duties are clear-to search the neighborhoods and report cases of influenza to the grand auditorium, which has been transformed into an emergency hospital. There Cleo meets Lieutenant Edmund Parrish, a medical student who bears the permanent scars of war. In the coming weeks, the death toll mounts, and reality sets in. There is little help forthcoming from an overworked medical staff and a strained ambulance service. If Cleo is to help save lives, she must find the courage to navigate alone in a city turned ominous with fear.

A BEAUTIFUL AND DEATH STRUCK YEAR is a young adult historical novel, complete at 56,000 words.

My articles have appeared in the Portland Oregonian, Bookmarks Magazine, and Library Journal. I have a BA in journalism from the University of Oregon and an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I studied literature for children. Additionally, I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

I have attached my complete manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.

Makiia Lucier
Here's what I loved about it:

First Spanish Influenza! I love that this is a time period I haven't seen too many times before, but at the same time there's a high stakes backdrop. (And can I say that when I read this for the first time, I was constantly freaking out when someone sneezed next to me on the subway.

I also was really struck by the writing and pacing in this query. Makiia introduces the stakes (the flu that kills!) and then she sets up Cleo's personal experience with it in a way that gradually built the sense of urgency. I felt so grabbed by the "personal reasons" (why would she put herself in danger!?) and this Lieutenant with scars of war (I admit I sort of love a guy with emotion baggage--at least in books).

I read the manuscript and loved it. There were parts that made me weep and of course, Edmund is rather swoony, and Cleo...I just loved her.

I wasn't the only one. I sold this to Harcourt Childrens. They dropped the "Beautiful" from the title and the book comes out in March, and it's one of the ABA picks for New Voices. Here's where you can add it to goodreads.

First Happy Halloween!

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk books!

This is a little bit of a different kind of release day, but Stacey Kade's adult novel, Bitter Pill, is officially available on Amazon and B&N.

This is a novel that Stacey actually wrote several years ago.  It's a mystery with a little bit of romance and trust me, the main character, Rennie, she'll make you laugh too. It's like a grown-up Nancy Drew if Nancy didn't quite have her life together. 

I adored reading this book and I was so happy to be able to help Stacey make it widely available to more readers. 

To celebrate, I propose a contest!

How about another 100 word writing challenge. 

You need to write a short story using these five words:


Bonus points if it has a mystery element!

Post your story in the comments by 11:59 pm 11/3 EST

The winner will receive a paperback copy of Bitter Pill and my undying appreciation. 

Oh and a query or first page critique that you can use for yourself or give to a friend. 

Cora Carmack's next novel is out today. 

And guys, Finding It is my favorite so far.

I know you hear this from me a lot, but wow I love this book. Kelsey is such a great character and I have absolutely fallen in love with Jackson Hunt. If you're looking for a good book boyfriend, let me tell you, Look no further.

If you're a Cora Carmack fan (if you're not, you're clearly delusional), Target will have a special signed edition that also has an extra scene in it. 

For Suzie's wishlist, check out the New Leaf tumblr at newleafliterary.tumblr.com

It was a little over a year ago that the super talented Natalie Lloyd first queried me. Now here's what's interesting. She knew one of my other super talented writers (the fabulous Sarah Wylie) who had referred her to me (and written me an email to tell me how much she loved Natalie and her novel).

But I read the query on a day when I had a lot of them and was cruising through and skipping ahead to the book description. So it actually wasn't until I knew I needed to request this, that I went back and read the first paragraph and realized this was a book I'd already been warned was good.

Here's the query:
Dear Ms. Townsend,

I adore your blog Confessions of a Wandering Heart. Your posts encourage me, challenge me, and frequently lead to impulse book purchases. (As an aside, I love that you kept the Reem Acra dress.) In researching your interests, I was excited to see that you are still acquiring middle-grade fiction. Your client, Sarah Wylie, suggested I query you with my manuscript, There’s Magic in Midnight Gulch.

When 12-year-old Felicity Pickle moves to Midnight Gulch, she’s certain this rainy mountain town will be as boring as every other city she’s kicked her sneakers through. But she’s wrong. Felicity soon discovers Midnight Gulch’s not-so-secret-secret: years ago, the people who lived in these hills had magic in their veins. They could churn memories into ice cream and trap shadows in books. They could sing up rainstorms and hide inside paintings. When Felicity hears the tale of The Brothers Threadbare, Midnight Gulch’s most notorious and most tragic family, she realizes this strange mountain magic might have everything to do with her own family’s misfortune.

With a little help from her new friends (including Jonah Pickett, an anonymous do-gooder who refers to himself as The Beedle), and a newfound confidence in her own peculiar ability, Felicity sets out to break a century-old curse, bring back the magic, and finally find a home for her wandering heart. There’s Magic in Midnight Gulch is complete at 55,000 words. I have also completed a middle-grade novel called Silverswift; about a grandmother, her granddaughter, a secret map and a feisty mermaid. Silverswift is complete at 50,000 words.

I have a degree in Journalism and currently work in non-fiction and freelance, writing mostly for a small (and incredible) readership of teen girls. I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee and am the proud owner of a highly excitable dog, a breezy southern drawl, and a room full of well-loved books.

Per your specifications, I have included the first five pages of my novel within this email. I would love to send you the rest if you are interested. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to review my query.

All the Best,

Here's what I love about it:

Um everything! No but really, if I had to go into specifics, the first one is that it's easy to tell just from the query that Natalie possesses a talent for stringing words together to make sentences.

I know that write from the first line of the book description (When 12-year-old Felicity Pickle moves to Midnight Gulch, she’s certain this rainy mountain town will be as boring as every other city she’s kicked her sneakers through.) From that line I have such a clear image of Felicity. The choice to use "kicked her sneakers through" is such a powerful but also original image. And of course, it's not the only great sentence in the query.

Another thing I really like about this query is the way that Natalie mentioned her other novel, Silverswift. It doesn't feel like she's pitching me two novels--instead it feels like she's just letting me know that she's got another book too. It's just a title and one line about it, but it implies she's serious about a career in writing, and of course, I like that.

I wasn't the only one to love Natalie, this book (or this pitch--which I tweaked when writing my pitch letter). This novel sold at auction over the summer and even the editors who were delirious enough to pass raved about how fabulous it was.

Now the title has changed to A Snicker of Magic and it will be released from Scholastic 2/25/2014.

Thanks everyone for being patient with me! I'm finally ready to announce the winners of the celebratory writing contest, in honor of A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers.

We had 40 fabulous entries and it was so tough to pick a winner! There were several really great ones. Here are my favorites:

Best New Leaf Client Entry
Dan Krokos @ 2:08 pm

Best Priest
Meg @ 10:23 am

Best Use of My Name
Violet Ingram @ 7:40 pm

Made Me LOL
Rochelle @ 3:02 pm

JF @ 5:52 pm

Best Twist
Abigail Johnson @ 2:37 pm

Best Suspense
Ambiguous_A @ 5:44 pm

Best Voice
Ashley @ 10:34 am

Runner Up
Sarah Blair @ 3:49 pm

And the winner is...

Shannon Koga @ 11:57 am

It’s totally Clueless, I know. Falling for your stepbrother. Your stupid, leaves his crappy-art-installations-all-over-the-living-room-floor stepbrother. They’re the kind of portraits that make a priest reach for his cross—hot, wild blurs of every scorned ex-girlfriend he’s ever had, covered in nothing but household objects.

This time it’s Tara, up to her navel in toasters; chords lashing around her ankles, smoke framing her face. Stubbing my foot on her, it’s the literal worst. A cough. I look up, and there he is, much too far, atop the staircase. “That’s for the burn-pile.”

I draw my lips together. “It’s not that bad.”

Shannon! Shoot me a quick email and I'll get you your copy of A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers and we'll chat about the critique you won!
As I mentioned yesterday, A Little Too Far, the fabulous new adult novel by the amazingly talented Lisa Desrochers, released yesterday.

If you haven't bought it yet, I don't know what you're waiting for, but...

I'm celebrating this release and accommodating a request for another 100 word writing contest.

Here are the details:
You need to write a short story (100 words or less!) using these five words:


Post your story in the comments of this post by 11:59 pm on September 21st.

What do you win?
A paperback copy of A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers


Your choice: either a first page critique or a query critique--good for you or a friend if you're feeling generous.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!
Lisa Desrochers' New Adult novel, A Little Too Far, is out today!

I signed Lisa back in 2009 for a YA paranormal romance (the fabulous Personal Demons). She was one of the first clients I signed and her book was my first sale!

If you've read Personal Demons, you know that Lisa does steamy and romance very well. (If you haven't read it, you should. It's sexy, funny, and fast paced). So when she told me she had written a New Adult novel, I was really excited about it. Then I read it. 

And it blew me away. I swooned and blushed and even wept. 

I'm so excited to be able to share this book now with you. 

I'm so excited to share with you the cover and description for Stacey Kade's new novel.

Here's what Stacey says about Bitter Pill:

Thank you so much for participating in the reveal for Bitter Pill. I’m so excited to be able to share it with you guys! It is one of those incredibly rare books where it almost felt like it wrote itself, and I just had to keep up. Well, the first draft anyway! :D

When I wrote this story, I was desperately homesick for the very tiny town where I lived in junior high. As some of you know, my dad is a Lutheran pastor, so we moved quite a bit during my childhood. For whatever reason, that small town in Southern Illinois really stuck with me. Morrisville is a (very) fictionalized version of that place.

There’s an odd mix of intense gossip and deep reserve that seems inherent to small towns. It’s part of the culture—“We know everything about everybody, but we don’t talk about that.” Certain things were just not discussed, which makes small towns a prime environment for secrets. And secrets are at the heart of every mystery. 

So, when I sat down to write this story, that element of knowing someone well but not really knowing what they might be capable of intrigued me. 

Rennie Harlow is my grown-up version of Nancy Drew, I suppose. Except, unlike cool, calm and collected Nancy, Rennie’s life is a disaster. She’s trying to make it through a particularly rough patch, but she’s flailing and fumbling, and I can so relate to that.  

As for Sheriff Jake Bristol…well, what can I say, there’s something about an honorable man in a tough situation that’s pretty irresistible. :D 

Thank you again for checking out Bitter Pill, and I hope you’ll give it a try!

Are you ready for the cover? Okay here it is...

scroll down




I just love this model and her black dress and pink roses in the graveyard. 

Here's the official description:

The truth is a bitter pill... 
Rennie Harlow is having a bad year. She had a handsome husband, a good job, and a renovated condo in Chicago. Now, thanks to one "exotically beautiful" paralegal, she’s divorced, faking her way through a writing career, and living above her hypochondriac mother's garage back in Morrisville, the small town she couldn't leave fast enough at eighteen. On top of all of that, she just found Doc Hallacy, the local pharmacist, dead behind his counter. And the worst part is, he's the third body she’s stumbled across this year.  
Jake Bristol has lived in Morrisville his whole life. A former bad boy turned sheriff, he doesn’t believe it’s just Rennie’s luck or timing that’s the problem. He thinks she’s too nosy for her own good. The last thing he needs is her messing around with his murder investigation so that she can freelance for the Morrisville Gazette.  But as they both delve deeper into Doc's death, they find that things don't add up. This isn't a robbery gone wrong or the work of a desperate junkie. Someone has a secret they're killing to keep. The only question is—who's next?

Bitter Pill will be available 10/28! Add it to your goodreads here and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

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Recently on tumblr, one of the questions was about queries (shocking I know). The author said she loved her book but hated her query and had written and re-written it an endless amount of times but couldn't seem to figure out how to get her novel across.

Naturally this made me want to look at it. With her permission, I'm going to share the query and then my thoughts on it here.

The query:

At 8:00AM, sixteen-year-old Aly Shapiro sketched the world she has dreams of on her desk. At 10:00AM , she accidentally pushed Zurich, the weird transfer student, into a car, after he antagonized her about the sketch. And at 11:30AM, Aly and Zurich traveled to Prithium, the place he claimed she dreams of. But, sometimes boys with violet eyes and magical worlds aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
The first thing Aly witnesses in Prithium is a public execution put on by the Protectors: a group of arachne that control the citizens. Then, the victim’s body disappears into thin air. Aly thinks she's finally gone crazy. That is, until the protectors accuse her of tampering with the murder and pursue her for the crime. Prithium is more corrupt than Aly could have imagined. Infants are born only in pairs and are deemed either virtuous or maleficent at birth. The latter are banished to a dissolute place called the Badlands.
But, Aly’s presence here may not have been by chance. She discovers she can harness energy and create portals to transport anywhere she wants- an ability only someone from Prithium can possess. She is warned to keep the truth hidden because it can mean certain death by the Protectors. But when conflict grows and her family’s lives are threatened Aly’s secret could end up saving those closest to her …or it might destroy her.

Here are my thoughts:

First, formatting. It sounds lame, but it really helps. More white space makes it easier to read.

At 8:00AM, sixteen-year-old Aly Shapiro sketched the world she has dreams of on her desk. 
At 10:00AM , she accidentally pushed Zurich, the weird transfer student, into a car, after he antagonized her about the sketch. 
And at 11:30AM, Aly and Zurich traveled to Prithium, the place he claimed she dreams of. But, sometimes boys with violet eyes and magical worlds aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

In theory, I like this opening. It's slightly non-traditional and I love the lead up (Josin McQuein pitched her novel Premeditated this way and it was stellar). However, I don't think it works here. None of these things are high stakes enough, and the different actions don't build the way that they should. I was interested in her sketch, but then I expect something BIG to come of it. Pushing a transfer student into a car after he antagonizes her isn't big enough. In fact the way it comes out is kind of weird. Then they travel to this other world, which makes me think it's a "trip into a portal fantasy" which is probably what would make me pass. That's not to say it's not good the way it's executed in the novel. It could just sound that way. The best part of this paragraph is the last line.

The first thing Aly witnesses in Prithium is a public execution put on by the Protectors: a group of arachne that control the citizens. Then, the victim’s body disappears into thin air. Aly thinks she's finally gone crazy. That is, until the protectors accuse her of tampering with the murder and pursue her for the crime. Prithium is more corrupt than Aly could have imagined. Infants are born only in pairs and are deemed either virtuous or maleficent at birth. The latter are banished to a dissolute place called the Badlands.

There's too much information in this paragraph about Prithium. The details feel all over the place. Focus on what is absolutely necessary to the main plotline. Backstory and worldbuilding can be left in your book. It's also losing sight of Aly a little and that's not good. We want to feel compelled to follow her through this story. Also WHO IS THIS DREAM BOY? You caught my interest with that and then there's nothing about him.

But, Aly’s presence here may not have been by chance. She discovers she can harness energy and create portals to transport anywhere she wants- an ability only someone from Prithium can possess. She is warned to keep the truth hidden because it can mean certain death by the Protectors. But when conflict grows and her family’s lives are threatened Aly’s secret could end up saving those closest to her …or it might destroy her.

Be careful of grammatical errors. I'm the first to admit that my grammar sometimes blows. But this is important. Commas go before conjunctions not after. Little things like this feel like glaring mistakes to us. Anyway, back to the content--in this paragraph we discover a little more about Aly, except it feels a little cliche. She discovers she has a power and it's special. That sounds like every other YA book I've read lately. What makes this one different--you have to show that. I do like the implication that she is actually from Prithium. However, this is again introducing too much information and maybe not enough of the right information. Reading this paragraph, I asked myself these questions: Can' everyone from Prithium use magic? If so why is it a secret, if not why can she? Who are the Protectors really? And wait they're arachne, like spiders? What conflict is growing? How are are family's lives threatened if they're back on earth? So I'm not hooked because I'm still focused on what I don't know rather than what I do know. I'm also still asking myself what happened to Zurich the weird transfer student who disappears from the query after the first paragraph and WHO IS THIS DREAM BOY?

So here's what I would do with this query.

Start with Aly. She's sixteen but tell us something else about her. Show us who she is. Then give us the catalyst: traveling to Prithium. The first paragraph would look something like this. (And yeah, keep in mind I'm making this up). 

For sixteen-year-old Aly Shapiro, the dream has always been the same. It starts with the sun on her face and a feeling of power that comes from within her, some kind of magic that makes her strong. Someone takes her hand, the feel of his fingertips sending shivers up her arm. She turns to him--a boy with violet eyes--and she feels like melting into him. The perfection doesn't last that way though. The dream is a nightmare, and she always dies at the end. Then she wakes, still feeling the burn of the rope around her neck and gasping for air. When reality and her dreams collide, Aly realizes that beautiful boys with striking eyes and magic aren't all that they're cracked up to be.

Okay this is a little long--too long--but it's the best I can do off the cuff. You can cut a sentence or two from that first paragraph, but it sets the scene and gives a quality to Aly (I went for wistfulness because I'm a romantic and then a threat to her life because come on that's exciting). I also implied that the dream world is magical and different without making it sound like she tripped and fell into a portal. Because that's a turn off.

In the next paragraph introduce the direct threat she faces in Prithium as well as a few key worldbuilding details. And introduce this boy with violet eyes.

Prithium is the world of Aly's dreams, but it's more than that. The events of her dream, they're real, and they're happening to her now. Damon, the boy with of her dreams, makes her feel lightheaded with his touch and his devilish smile. She has a strength that she didn't know was inside her, a magic that died out with the massacre of the royal family fifteen years ago. A magic that's now illegal.

But things aren't perfect. Damon is one of the leaders of a rebellion against the ruling protectorate of the city. He wants to use her and her magic to put his uncle on the throne, someone that despite all logic makes Aly want to cringe. She has to help them though. If she's exposed the protectorate will execute first and ask questions later, something Aly has witnessed firsthand. She needs to figure out the truth of who she is and where her magic comes from, and she needs to pick a side. Because she knows how this dream ends: with her death.

There are still some cliches in here. (Missing royal heir and rebellion). And over all I don't think this actually is the story of the query, so it's just an example. BUT it introduces a love story (Damon), the choice she faces (should she use her illegal magic to aid the rebellion), and the potential consequences (exposure, execution).

It's not perfect. I don't know that I would request this as I've rewritten it. YA is so crowded and I don't know that it's quite different enough (dream worlds as a concept are tough), but I would scroll down and look at the pages and check out the voice. And if it sucked me in I would request.

Those are my thoughts on the query. Let me open it up to everyone else. What are your thoughts on the original query?
You probably know by now that I’ve become a champion of New Adult. Well, I've been talking about it with readers and writers and people in publishing. Because New Adult is relatively “new” and it’s been skyrocketing in popularity, a lot of people seem to have a lot of questions about it. I took to twitter and asked for the most pressing questions they had, and put together the most frequently asked ones together.

Then it occurred to me that it might be better to have more than just one opinion so I’ve asked a few friends to share their thoughts in addition to mine to help give you answers.


Gordon Warnock, Foreword Literary
Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary
Kathleen Ortiz, New Leaf Literary
Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary

What does New Adult mean to you?

Gordon Warnock: "OMG. I'm an adult. Now what?" in any genre. Like YA, it concerns a lot of first-time issues and struggles, but they're what most people face in/after college rather than in high school. It's a different focus and a different mindset. Repeat after me: NA is not sexed-up YA.

Kathleen Rushall: In a sense, New Adult is similar to YA in that it can cross subject matter, but whatever the plot, it’s defined by general themes of what the characters are going through. However, those themes are different for New Adult than they are for YA. Where in YA we find characters trying to find their place in the world while still struggling with restrictions or being under someone or something’s control (be it parents, guardians, the government, etc.), NA is a step beyond that age. Generally, NA focuses on characters that are free from those kind of restrictions for the first time in their lives. They are finding their path, whether it’s experiencing love, experimenting with something in a way they haven’t before, discovering a career path, or leaving home for the first time. NA is all about beginnings and the challenges that can bring.

Kathleen Ortiz: NA isn't just YA with sex or an adult romance with some teens. It's about the experience of going from teen to adult -- and then realizing you're not quite as mature / adult as you thought you were. It's that turning point in life where you don't have the shelter of your parents and where you're 110% responsible for your actions.

Suzie Townsend: What I love about New Adult is that it’s so representative of the way we stumble through our college years and our early twenties, trying to find a place in the adult world, even though we still don’t feel like adults.

Does a New Adult manuscript have to have a romance?

GW: No, but that's the bulk of what's doing well right now. The presence of a romance is often appropriate, considering how much of an issue that is at that age, but it isn't necessary. One NA that I sold before NA was a thing didn't have a romance. The author and I discussed it during edits, and we decided against it. It just wouldn't have worked.

KR: I think it’s a very important component, yes.

KO: For now, NA needs romance. It's certainly found its biggest audience through romance readers, so it does help to have the strong romance plot.

ST: I’m not sure how it will be for other agents, but for me, I need the romance. It doesn’t have to be sex--it can more of a hint of romance.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into New Adult?

GW: It really has to be something you're passionate about writing. If you're looking to simply crank out a quick manuscript in a hot genre, we can tell, because it's usually going to be shit.

KR: Don’t write for a trend; write what you love.

KO: Read read read. Just like writing in any genre, know what kind of stories sell in this age group, what has worked and what hasn't. Write your own unique story that will appeal to this age group.

ST: I’m going to echo what everyone has already said. Read in your genre, write what you love, and be patient.

Do you see growth potential in other New Adult genres (ie science fiction, fantasy, mystery, etc)?

GW: Oh, yes. A million times, yes. It pains me that Amazon lists NA as a subcategory of Romance.

KR: Absolutely. I think we’re on the brink of New Adult covering other genres in addition to contemporary romance. As I mention above, it’s not just about attending college or a contemporary love story: it’s about conjuring that sense of liberation, excitement, and sometimes unease that is often associated with that age, or the college years. The story doesn’t necessarily have to take place at a university (or even in this world or time period) to do that.

KO: Definitely potential for these other genres. Just a matter of time! (though I do feel they still need a strong romance line)

ST: I think there’s potential for growth, but we’re at a pivotal moment for the age group. As we move forward we will need to see a successful New Adult title in a genre other than contemporary romance in order to see the expansion. (Here are my expanded thoughts).

Are you seeing a lot of New Adult submissions? What would you like to see more or less of in terms of submissions in the genre?

GW: I see a fair amount, and I'm personally sick of the virgin angle. That's been done. Give me something new. I'd personally love some NA non-fiction.

KR: I’m interested in seeing New Adult submissions that are authentic, gripping stories with characters that are real and engaging. Just because it’s labeled “New Adult” doesn’t mean it will be something I feel compelled to read. Like anything else, the writing must be there. It will need a strong voice, great characters, and intriguing hook.

KO: I'm seeing way too many NA submissions that are simply YA with sex. That's not NA and that's not what I'm looking to add to my list. I want to see more novels about the experience of being NA. Unsure what this is? See my definition in GIFs here.

ST: Yes. I’ve seen a huge spike in my queries for NA and for all kinds. In terms of what I want, this is going to be sort of a lame answer, but in contemporary, I want something that I don’t feel like I’ve seen before. Right now, a lot of the contemporary romance submissions I’ve received lately seem like stories that I’ve already read. In other genres, I want New Adult submissions with really strong characters that feel authentic to the New Adult experience (as opposed to just older YA).

So those are the agents’ takes.

And because there are people with an even better perspective out there, I also reached out to a few editors as well.


Priyanka Krishnan, Random House
Margo Lipschulz, Harlequin
Megha Parekh, Grand Central
Junessa Viloria, Random House

Does New Adult have to have romance?

Priyanka Krishnan: To put it simply, yes. At an editorial meeting, if you can talk about the wonderful, sexy, heartwarming, hilarious, believable, fresh romance in an NA submission, that’s the fastest way to get people to want to read it. And I think as far as the NA audience goes, the majority of the readers are coming to these books looking for a great romantic plotline. That said, does every other page have to be devoted to sexytimes? No! In fact, I don’t think these books need to have explicit sex scenes, and I hate the idea that people are writing off this genre as “erotic YA” or something along those lines! (What does that even mean?) Ultimately, I think the most important thing is that the romance feels true to the characters and true to the moment in life the author is trying to depict. I mean, when I was in college, I wasn’t having crazy, Fifty Shades-style sex (contrary to what that sentence implies, I am also not having crazy Fifty Shades-style sex now. I know you were wondering); but at that time, for me, relationships were more dramatic, more innocent, more passionate, more awkward, more cringe-worthy, more turbulent, and more heartbreaking than they have been at any other point in my life. So, capture that. Or capture what it was like for you. Just remember, whatever you’re capturing, the romance should feel authentic. The characters and situations might be imagined, but the emotions need to be real.

Margo Lipschulz: All of the New Adult novels I've read and enjoyed have included a central romance that's integral to the storyline and to the main characters' growth. I think that intense relationship drama--watching the protagonists navigate the ups and downs of a love that is different from anything they've experienced before--is part of what draws readers to this genre. That said, there doesn't necessarily have to be a traditional happily-ever-after ending to their romance--since these characters are young (college-aged or early 20s), they're not necessarily thinking about marriage, babies or a house in the suburbs. An assurance that they're happy for now, that they've worked out their immediate issues and hope to stay together in the future, can be just as emotionally satisfying to the reader as a marriage proposal at the end of the book.

Megha Parekh: Yes. For New Adult, the romance is what drives these books. All the New Adults that I have read revolve around the hero and the heroine, and how their relationship makes them stronger as individuals or heals them.

Junessa Viloria: I think readers expect some element of romance in a New Adult book, and personally, I do want to see romance in a New Adult manuscript. New Adult is all about self-discovery in that wonderful period between adolescence and adulthood, and I think love and romance are a big, delicious part of that time.

What advice would you give someone trying to break into New Adult?

PK: I really hate offering advice because, hey, you could follow my advice down to the letter and get nowhere. Or smirk and think, “she’s an idiot”, do exactly the opposite, and end up incredibly successful. (If it has to be one of the two, I hope the latter happens for you.) But basically, I just want to read something that sparkles. I don’t want a derivative of Losing It or Easy or The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden; granted, the basic premise for a lot of NA might be similar, but convince me your story is a fun twist or a fresh take on it. If it helps, think of me as always having one hand on one of the books above and one hand on your ms—at any point, I can put down your book and go back to the one I already know I love. Don’t give me a chance to do that! But ultimately, the best advice I can give is, don’t write the story you think I want the read. Write the story you want to read, and create characters you really care about. Find the agents who represent the NA books you love and query them. Query the hell out of them. If that doesn’t work, look for alternative methods to get your story out there. I can only speak to what I know, but you don’t have to have an agent to submit to Random House’s digital NA imprint, FLIRT. (*Shameless self-promotion: Tweet at me if you’re interested in that route, @mspriyanka!*) Self-publish on Amazon, put your story up on Watt Pad…do what it takes to get some eyeballs on your book. You probably know agents look at these platforms, but guess what—we do too!

ML: Read the genre! Read until you're satisfied that you understand why people are gravitating toward these stories, and make sure that these stories are what you truly want to write yourself. Don't write New Adult just because you think you'll get more attention than you would writing YA or contemporary romance. Don't try to market your book as NA if it has 20-something characters but doesn't otherwise feature any of the hallmarks of this genre.

MPI would tell them that don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of “conventional” romance a bit. New Adult seems to have become the place where darker or nontraditional themes have been more widely explored. Also, while it’s called New Adult, the key word is Adult. These books are definitely marketed towards an adult audience. I think a lot of people make the mistake of skewing too YA in their subject matter, which an adult imprint can’t publish and a YA imprint also can’t. Write for adults – whether that be with your plot or the sensuality level.

JV: I’d say to read what out’s there and then try to put their own spin on it. I see a lot of manuscripts that are very similar to what’s already out there and I want to see a different take to this genre. I think that now’s the time to experiment, especially since it’s so hot right now.

Do you see growth potential in other New Adult genres (ie science fiction, fantasy, mystery, etc)? 

PK: This is a tough question to answer. I would love to see some wonderful historical NA, something with a dash of adventure or mystery thrown into the mix. I think that could be really fun if done right. But that brings us back to the question of what “NA” really is—there’s historical fiction out there with younger protagonists and a romantic subplot. Do we call that NA? Is NA strictly contemporary? I’m not certain. But that’s what’s interesting about it, it’s an evolving category. I’m all for seeing what we can do with it, but it’s also a matter of analyzing what works and what readers want to see more (or less) of. We don’t want to be throwing everything at the wall just to see what sticks.

MLYes, absolutely. I think some of the common themes of contemporary NA--coming into your own, simultaneously dealing with first-time adult responsibilities and with the emotional urgency/intensity of the college (or just beyond) years--can easily translate to other genres as long as the characters and relationships are paramount to any world-building or mystery elements.

MPThere is definitely room to grow in all sub-genres here, as this is such a new genre. Lately, I’ve been seeing paranormal/fantasy New Adult as well.

JV: I think that right now, people are expecting a certain type of read when they pick up a New Adult novel – contemporary with a romance element. However, as more people become aware of New Adult, I do think that there’s room for growth for other New Adult genres, provided that they have similar elements that readers have come to expect from these books. I think that readers would welcome something fresh and original in New Adult and I think other genres could provide that.

Are you seeing a lot of New Adult submissions? What would you like to see more or less of in terms of submissions in the genre?

PK: I am receiving a fair amount of NA submissions, but I would love to see more! Send them to me, send them all to me! (#addict) In terms of what I would like to see more or less of: First, if you’re going to do angst, try to avoid the cookie-cutter brooding bad boy. I’m bored of that guy. Why does he brood so much? (Similarly, while I do like when characters are dealing with weightier issues, not every character needs a tortured past.) Second, don’t neglect the “other” relationships. I’d love to read NA with a great bromance a la Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood, and see more best friends and frenemies getting page space. Because, yes, while I do think NA stories need a compelling romance, that’s not all they need. Falling in love is only one part of the journey. Third, I like funny and I like characters with a sense of humor; I like silly and I like moments where no one is taking life too seriously. I could use more of that, generally!

MLI'm definitely seeing an increase in NA submissions, but not all submissions that are billed as NA actually fit my definition of NA--character age alone is not enough! I'd love to see more NA featuring characters with a fresh, unusual backstory--i.e. if the protagonists are each bringing deep emotional baggage to their relationship, I'd hope it would be baggage that I haven't encountered in many NA books already on the market.

MP: I have been seeing a lot of New Adult romance, mostly contemporary, which I absolutely love. I’m definitely looking for an original New Adult series. But I would love a great New Adult suspense as well.

JVI’m seeing a good amount of New Adult submissions. I’d actually like to see more debut New Adult submissions, rather than things that have already been self-published. I like angsty reads, but sometimes I just crave something fun and lighter than some of the new adults that have been released lately.

So to some all of this up, I think a lot of people are really excited, not just about New Adult, but also all of different the possibilities and growth that could be coming next within the genre.