At piiiiiiiiiiiie has come along...

Hi everyone! Two apologies: one for the delay (Blogger freaked out and stopped formatting the posts--so this is all hand-done--who knew HTML circa 1998 could be so useful?) and one for the cheesiness of the title, but I just couldn't resist. I'm having one of those days where I'm tempted to listen to music all day and thoroughly annoy my officemates. Solution? Singing. In my head. Occasionally mouthing lyrics. And trying, trying, trying to not get caught by my interns. "What are you doing?" Oh, me, nothing...great manuscript!

Really, um, evocative.

So, with that in mind--the unveiling of the pies.

I've hidden all of the submissions, and I still haven't told the winner--though I've picked a response--because, um, her replies will be in a future post. She sent a great idea, but one not suitable for a pie chart--better as a line graph, and I really like the big, colorful nature of pie charts for conferences. (And markers. I bought new ones for the occasion, in lots of bright colors.)

This new idea requires a bit more data-gathering, so it will be a few weeks. I will alert the author this week and then announce the topic here.

I did a little data-collection on why I say Yes and No to Young Adult queries. Why YA? Because it's expanding faster than any genre. And why just queries? Because you're going to write what you're going to write--you have to. But in terms of queries, which (as I've mentioned before) are a separate skill from book-writing, there is a lot of information out there that can help you get your work to the next stage.

A note on the data-gathering: I went through queries and applied all applicable labels. So, yes, some got a favorable/unfavorable response from me for more than one reason. In such cases, I put a tally in each pie wedge's list.

Here is the Yes pie chart:

37 percent: writing. This makes a lot of sense--the writing for a manuscript, especially fiction, must be excellent. These queries had writing that thoroughly impressed me and, for that reason, I asked to see more.

22 percent: concept. Sometimes I read about the idea for a work and it rocks my little socks. YA has so much opportunity for creativity in this regard--take advantage, and I'll want to read your work.

18 percent: I just want to read it. When you get down to the subjective nitty-gritty, your query exists in order to make people want to read your work. Sometimes I look at a query and, though I can't pinpoint why, I'm just intrigued. Hence this piece.

18 percent: voice. Voice is so incredibly important in works for YA readers--if you can create a vivid and likable and/or super interesting narrator, you're well on your way to a successful novel.

5 percent: author credentials. If we know the author personally, or they can list impressive accomplishments, we'll likely say yes to seeing more if the work has even a small chance of being right for us.

Now for the NOs.

35 percent: writing. As previously mentioned, writing, especially for fiction, must be excellent.

18 percent: voice. Young adults are brilliant at detecting inauthenticity--and making fun of it. Voice, for these queries, felt off. And if I, several years out of the YA reading audience, feel this way--surely teenagers will, too.
The rest of the pie chart, actually, has to do exclusively with plot/concept. Keep in mind that this is something very much within your control.

8 percent: inappropriate plot/concept. Keep in mind the age of your readers. If you're writing something that would have every parent in America wanting to set your book on fire, we're going to think twice about taking on your work. Yes, yes, it would get kids reading. And we can all agree that reading is a good value. But if suddenly all of the teenagers in the country start doing something dangerous that you described as incredibly fun? Well...that's not ideal.

11 percent: audience. Similar to above, but with a twist: sometimes we get queries for works that really should be novels for adults. I know it's tempting to smush what you've been writing into a genre that you know is selling really really well, especially if your work has paranormal elements, which are more difficult in the adult market. But--I can't say it enough--write what you are meant to write. Don't write what you think will sell.

9 percent: derivative plot. You'd be amazed by how many works we get that are about young women new to their schools who happen to fall in love with vampires in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, Twilight did well. That does not mean that if you do everything Twilight did, so too will your work. Be careful. Does this mean vampires are too saturated and any vampire work will automatically be turned away? No. Just be aware of what's out there and ensure your work is different.

9 percent: concept that reads like a Public Service Announcement. We all want to teach kids good things--do your homework, eat your vegetables, stay off drugs, stay in school. But young readers, if they feel this is the motivation for your story, will be completely turned off. Think about it--would you have spent your allowance on books that sound just like your parents' nagging? Didn't think so.

6 percent: depressing concept. If nothing good happens in your story--if it's a series of unfortunate events--you're going to have a hard time keeping readers.

4 percent: fit. Sometimes it just isn't a good match for us.

So. There you have it. New chart announcement coming soon!


~Jamie said...

I love new markers! Especially those smell-good ones. Any time I make a chart in life, I try to use the red one because it smells like cherry chap-stick!

I think it's interesting that very few of the queries are rejected because they aren't a good fit. Especially when the majority of form rejections usually say something to that effect.

Man... I can't stop thinking about those awesome markers. I think I'ma gonna go buy some. :)

ChristaCarol said...

Teehee, Jamie, you're hilarious! Now I know what to get you for Christmas....cherry chap-stick!

This was very interesting to read, and I love the pie charts. Visuals are always nice. You put a lot of work into this, thanks for having it out here for us!

Christina Gullickson said...

That's a good point, Jamie.

And thanks for the pie!

~Jamie said...

FYI--I totally went to get some of those smell-good markers. SO if you guys need me to make a chart, or maybe just draw big giant circles or whatever, I am so there.

Stef Kramer said...

Ah - the cliffhanger!! Nice touch agent Jessica. I like the new graphic as well...

Matthew Rush said...

Awesome Pie Chart!

Write2Live said...

I believe you were the first person to ever put into words why my novel wouldn't fit into the YA genre. Thus far, putting my work under a label has proven the hardest part of the publishing process for me. Keep putting good advice out there! People are truly reaping the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post -- I'm learning but gosh it takes a LOOOOOOOOONG time -- ps -- the blueberrTy ones. the best.