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n3onkn1ght
04-24-2011, 02:43 AM
I've heard that dystopias are the "next big thing" in YA, yet so far every agent I've heard back from (about seven) has said they're not the right person, which is strange for a market that's supposed to be booming.

So before I embark on the next round of queries, does anyone know which agents are in the market for dystopia? Specifically, dystopian fantasy with a Dickensian/steampunk flavor.

Or, leads on small publishing houses accepting that sort of thing would be great too. If this isn't the right folder for that, I'm sorry, I've never posted in here before.

Becca C.
04-24-2011, 02:51 AM
As far as I know, pretty much every agent that handles YA wants dystopian because it's so hot. Could be that it's not a case of the market -- maybe your query or sample pages aren't up to snuff. Just because a market's hot doesn't mean agents have any lowered standards.

Not insinuating that your story sucks! XD Just saying that even when a market's hot, only the best of the best is going to be taken on by agents.

agentpaper
04-24-2011, 05:20 AM
It could also be that since the market is so hot the story has to REALLY stand out to get picked up. That's what happened with me with one of my other stories when my agent subbed it to editors. Good luck!

Miriel
04-24-2011, 09:45 AM
The phrase "not right for me" is a common one in form rejections. Have you posted your query in Query Letter Hell? Your book might be fine, but if the agent doesn't get past the query...no dice.

AngelaA
04-24-2011, 05:14 PM
I was just talking to my agent about this and she told me that the market is pretty glutted with dystopian YA at the moment and unless your work really stands out as being different you'll likely only get rejections.

HJW
04-24-2011, 06:30 PM
If it's any use, my dystopian novel (which also has some very slight Victorian/steam-punk elements) landed me an agent in January. Although it's possibly more upper MG/tween than YA (main character is 13).


My agent initially wanted to market it as a futuristic thriller as she thought dystopian might be a bit over-exposed at the moment, but now she says dystopian is back on editors' wish-lists.

Iím in the UK, BTW.

Irysangel
04-24-2011, 10:11 PM
Yeah, I am hearing that dystopian is on the downward slope too. Everyone already has a ton of it or is shopping it already.

That being said, it'll probably get a second wind when the Hunger Games movie comes out. So you might have difficulty between now and then, but if your book is stellar, it's moot anyhow. :)

Good luck!

n3onkn1ght
04-25-2011, 01:01 AM
Have you posted your query in Query Letter Hell? Your book might be fine, but if the agent doesn't get past the query...no dice.

I just did, actually. The results were not promising, but I wasn't really expecting them to be. Writing query letters is just a chore for me.

n3onkn1ght
04-25-2011, 01:28 AM
Although it's possibly more upper MG/tween than YA (main character is 13).

Is that a different market? I thought there was just children's books (Judy Bloom and all that) and then YA (Harry Potter and up).

I was stylistically inspired by His Dark Materials, which I've seen labeled as YA, and like that, my main character starts out as twelve. Would I have better luck aiming somewhere below YA?

kaitlin008
04-25-2011, 02:22 AM
With a twelve-year-old MC, it's more likely that you're writing MG, although not always true. You might want to confer with one of your beta readers or check out the sticky that I think is in the young adult subforum about categorizing your novel. And good luck!

Cyia
04-25-2011, 04:07 AM
Is that a different market? I thought there was just children's books (Judy Bloom and all that) and then YA (Harry Potter and up).

I was stylistically inspired by His Dark Materials, which I've seen labeled as YA, and like that, my main character starts out as twelve. Would I have better luck aiming somewhere below YA?

Harry Potter and His Dark Materials are both MG with the first books. You're shooting yourself in the foot if you're classing a 12 yr-old protag as YA.

Kids read up, which means if your MC is 12, your general audience will be 8-10, which is MG.

Smish
04-25-2011, 04:10 AM
Yes, MG and YA are different, and the MG (middle grade, generally targeted for ages 8-12) market is HUGE. You may need to do a little research before you actually send any queries, to see exactly where your book fits.

HJW
04-25-2011, 11:23 AM
Harry Potter and His Dark Materials are both MG with the first books. You're shooting yourself in the foot if you're classing a 12 yr-old protag as YA.

Kids read up, which means if your MC is 12, your general audience will be 8-10, which is MG.


A lot will depend on the style and content of the book, though? If the OP is aiming at a Dark Materials type audience and used a similar style etc., I doubt readership would be as young as 8? I think it sounds more like an 9/10-12 audience?

It’s not an exact science, I don't think, and individual editors and agents will often have different ideas about where a book’s audience lies in terms of age (one editor thinks my book with 13 year old lead character is 12+ audience).

Just my 2p worth, based on my own experience.

On edit - to the OP - have you read Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve? I have a feeling you'd like it. The characters are a bit older than yours (15 I think), but it seems to have an MG and YA (and adult!) fanbase.

Toothpaste
04-25-2011, 07:30 PM
Having read your query, I think you should age up your protagonist. Maybe to 15. Would that make a huge difference to the story telling? If it doesn't, it would make your life A LOT easier when it comes to categorising your novel.

I know there is a grey area, and if you feel like playing in that area that's cool. But if you don't have to, if you can make both your life and your future agent's life easier, I say do it.

n3onkn1ght
04-26-2011, 03:17 AM
Having read your query, I think you should age up your protagonist. Maybe to 15. Would that make a huge difference to the story telling?

I could maybe do thirteen, but my book is very much about the death of innocence. When writing, one of the things that interested me was how blissfully unaware the main character is about his blindingly evil empire. If I make him fifteen, he'd lose the childish mentality that directly contributes to his coming-of-age. Fifteen is just way too cynical and adult an age to work for the story.

Toothpaste
04-26-2011, 05:53 AM
I'm not so sure of that actually. I've only read your query of course, but you say that this is a world where no one has any imagination (and as a result, little empathy). Being able to empathise with someone else is a more mature quality, the stereotype usually being that those who are selfish and only think of themselves are more childish than the giving and caring. It is possible that he has had a stunted upbringing, that he is 15 in a world where 15 means you are still naive and lacking a real understanding of the world. You can't really be cynical if you don't have an imagination - cynicism requires a sense of being able to see the world beyond what you see it as. A sense of "this is how things are and how they will always be". Without an imagination one simply would think, "This is life" and not think about the future or the past or why life is how it is.

All that being said, your novel could at the same time still be middle grade (8 - 12), there is nothing in your query that suggests it can't be. It's all about the tone. My two novels are middle grade and I have a lot of death, and an almost torture scene. You can get away with a lot in middle grade.

Just some things to think about.

n3onkn1ght
04-26-2011, 09:07 AM
Without an imagination one simply would think, "This is life" and not think about the future or the past or why life is how it is.

Which, of course, is exactly how he is at the start of the book.

I meant cynical more in the sense of how his character arc develops over the book (and the next five, actually).

Also, according to the world the way I've laid it out, people gradually lose the potential to imagine as they mature into adolescence. They've got to be freed young, before they're too set in their ways (and I swear I'm not just ripping off the Matrix, haha)

Tell you what, though, that "middle grade" thing is sounding better and better. Thanks for the advice!

Winterturn
04-26-2011, 05:31 PM
I could maybe do thirteen, but my book is very much about the death of innocence. When writing, one of the things that interested me was how blissfully unaware the main character is about his blindingly evil empire. If I make him fifteen, he'd lose the childish mentality that directly contributes to his coming-of-age. Fifteen is just way too cynical and adult an age to work for the story.

Somewhere over on the YA board (under one of the stickies, I think) someone commented that a key difference between MG and YA is that YA stories are usually about the protagonist coming of age, whereas a MG protagonist, regardless of whatever he or she goes through in the book, is still a child at the end.

Though there are always exceptions to any classification, this definition makes a lot of sense to me, and seems to indicate that your book would fall into the YA category.

Jamesaritchie
04-26-2011, 08:01 PM
I've heard that dystopias are the "next big thing" in YA, yet so far every agent I've heard back from (about seven) has said they're not the right person, which is strange for a market that's supposed to be booming.

So before I embark on the next round of queries, does anyone know which agents are in the market for dystopia? Specifically, dystopian fantasy with a Dickensian/steampunk flavor.

Or, leads on small publishing houses accepting that sort of thing would be great too. If this isn't the right folder for that, I'm sorry, I've never posted in here before.

A booming market does not, in any way, mean an agent wants your book, based on your query. The standard response for a query or manuscript an agent doesn't like is "I'm not the right person".

It sounds like your query needs some serious work. Though I'd also say that you're taking a huge chance writing a YA with a twelve year old protagonist. Why not make it MG, and build from there?

Not many people of YA age want to read about a protagonist so much younger than they are.

But I will say this. No one has a clue what the "next big thing" will be. Whatever it is will be determined purely by a writer who writes a novel of any type that's so good millions of readers love it.

LizzieFriend
04-26-2011, 09:16 PM
I've heard that dystopias are the "next big thing" in YA, yet so far every agent I've heard back from (about seven) has said they're not the right person, which is strange for a market that's supposed to be booming.


Hi n3, I just jumped over and read your query, and I think you're likely getting rejected on some technicalities rather than on your chosen genre*. Your MC is young for YA, your query format was a bit off, and if you led with a quote like you did in the posted version, that probably led to a good number of auto-rejects.

I wouldn't start questioning your book or the market just yet, rather, I'd spend more time honing your query in QLH and do another few rounds of edits. Good luck! The query process is horrible (I'm right there with you) but it'll get better.

Also, I'd disagree that fourteen/fifteen is too old to still be naive. Looking back, you probably thought you were a lot more cynical and less trusting than you actually were. Fourteen-year-olds can definitely still be kids, especially in a society that aggressively shelters them like the one in your book.

I'm getting into query crits here, but on a final note you may want to add something to address how the government actually limited your MC's ability to use his imagination. He may not know the word, but that wouldn't mean he wouldn't still naturally have one. The power of imagination is in using it, not in being able to define what it is.

Good luck!

*Of course, rejects can just be rejects anyway. You can have the best query and premise in the world, and you'll still likely get rejects.

elindsen
04-27-2011, 12:26 AM
On the topic of dystopian...is it considered fantasy? Since querytracker and agent query don't have a dystopian slot, do I search fantasy?

Back to hide from my other dumb questions...

LizzieFriend
04-27-2011, 12:58 AM
I'd say it's it's own genre--especially at the moment--but it probably fits under the SF/F classification. This might help:

http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2010/10/big-ol-genre-glossary.html

As for how to search, yes, I'd probably use fantasy. If you search on publisher's marketplace, they have a write-in genre option you could use, too.


On the topic of dystopian...is it considered fantasy? Since querytracker and agent query don't have a dystopian slot, do I search fantasy?

Back to hide from my other dumb questions...

Shallee
05-01-2011, 04:24 AM
Dystopian in the classical sense is considered a sub-genre of science fiction. Most dystopians have sci fi elements, and they take place in the future, so they're considered "speculative." Of course, fantasy is under the speculative fiction umbrella as well, and depending on your story it might be more fantasy than sci fi. Either sci fi or fantasy would work for a search, I'd think.

Windcutter
05-20-2011, 10:38 AM
Yes, it seems most agents who deal with speculative YA also take dystopian YA fiction these days. Must be due to the trend, because I notice a lot of agents who handle fantasy say no to SF.

But the downward slope rumor makes me wonder... my current YA project is formally urban fantasy but it has some dystopian elements. I thought to give those elements a special push in the query when sending it out but now I'm thinking maybe I should stick to good old UF.