By Helen Gregg
At a sold-out seminar last Tuesday hosted by Publisher’s Weekly, three panelists and a room full of representatives from the publishing industry gathered to discuss emerging trends in young adult and teen fiction, and to try to predict what might be next.
The panelists, two literary agents and a Hollywood literary scout, did not see an end of paranormal fiction in the near future. Claire Lundberg from MGM said she is presented with “a lot of paranormal; a lot of vampires, angels, zombies and a fair amount of werewolves are still getting optioned. I’m tired of it but I’m not sure the kids are.” One of the literary agents, Rebecca Sherman of Writer’s House, said the paranormal trend was continuing, but “with a spin.” She cited campy new novels featuring overweight, unattractive vampires, and one novel, Blood Thirsty, about a pale, brooding boy who receives an unprecedented amount of female attention because of his resemblance to a Twilight vampire. Stephen Barbara, of Foundry Literary + Media, said writers were looking beyond vampires to other paranormal creatures. He referenced Tricia Rayburn’s upcoming series, Siren, a novel about mermaids with plenty of romance and a contemporary spin. He also reported a growing number of books about angels, in an attempt to capture not only the teen Twilight fans but the “large Christian market” as well.
Apart from the paranormal, the panelists and audience were also looking forwards to the next popular subgenre among teens. Noticing teens’ attraction to darker subject matter, the conversation turned to a rise in dystopian novels for YA audiences, citing the popularity of the series The Hunger Games and its forthcoming film adaptation. The two literary agents revealed they each were working with dystopian novels as well, suggesting an emerging trend. Lundberg, however, held reservations about these novels finding success on the big screen. She referenced the recent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a popular novel made into an incredibly depressing film, and one that did not fare well at the box office. Even though one librarian assured the crowd that teens, including her own children, liked depressing books and movies, the subgenre may quickly disappear in the YA market if it does not find widespread commercial success.
However, the race to the next popular subgenre may not lead to the next million-copy series. Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, who was in the audience but participated several times in the discussion, reminded the audience that a panel or publisher didn’t guess that a single mom in Britain would write a worldwide phenomenon about a boy wizard on napkins, she just did and it was. Similarly Twilight began, not followed, a trend. She offered one of the final thoughts for the panel, which was the next wildly successful series will emerge only “when someone writes something fantastic” that teens want to read and, more importantly, want to tell their friends about.