Thursday, February 24, 2011

#askagent Conversation Compilation

Checkout this Q&A with writer and agent at D4EO Mandy Hubbard. Lots of other stuff was discussed yesterday under the #askagent hashtag on Twitter yesterday, but I picked out a few threads about crossover, new adult, and what writing YA means. (I reordered the tweets and grouped them- more time-consuming than it sounds!)

Conversation #1

Kelly (that's me!) says @abenning re new adult- I've got the same question. I didn't see a response in #askagent

Mandy says @Kelly_Bryson @abenning what was your Q regarding New Adult? #askagent

Kelly says @MandyHubbard with MC slightly older than YA, do you jump to adult? Do agents believe in new adult concept or can I call it crossover?

Mandy says @Kelly_Bryson If your MC is NOT a teen, it's probably best t call it adult OR age char down-- comes down to voice.

Mandy says @Kelly_Bryson New adult isn't a genre, just a marketing concept by ONE publisher. So that crevice btwn YA/Adult is tough.

Kelly says @MandyHubbard Thanks! That helps. I think my confusion comes in bc I'm paran rom, but the romance stays at a YA level.

Mandy says @Kelly_Bryson ??? What does that even mean-- romance at "YA level"? There's no limitations on romance in YA.

Kelly says @MandyHubbard I thought of that once I sent the tweet;) I've read Perfect chemistry etc.- just meant that it's not Sookie.

Mandy says @Kelly_Bryson oh, haha. Yeah, YA romance can go all the way, just not be super-duper explicit/erotic, so to speak.

Kelly says @MandyHubbard Whew! I thought I was in trouble there for a minute! Thanks for your clarification:)

Conversation #2

Ashley says- @MandyHubbard @Kelly_Bryson Sorry for late response. ? was if MC starts at 17 but is mid-20s when book/series ends,query as YA or New Adult?

Mandy says @abenning that's really really tough. YA series simply dont go to mid-20s. I would rework it, or call it adult if the voice works.

Mandy says @abenning New Adult is NOT a genre, its is a marketing point for adult books by a single publisher.

Ashley says-@MandyHubbard Thanks for the reply. That's exactly what I needed to hear

Conversation #3

Hannahrhooton says @Valerie_Norris @MandyHubbard Just missed #askagent too (not so hot on time differences). Have burning question. Mandy would u be so kind?

Mandy says @hannahrhooton Sure, go ahead and ask! I didn't quite make it to chat by 6AM either. ;-) #askagent

Hannahrhooton says @MandyHubbard Thank you! I write womens comm fic (agent pitching it likewise) but getting popular online reviews from teens. Should I be ...

Hannahrhooton says @MandyHubbard ...concerned that I've written for wrong market? (I'm 30 and it appeals to me!) Thanks again! #askagent

Mandy says @hannahrhooton HA, i went through the same thing. First thing I had agented was women's fiction featuring 20-something characters #askagent

Mandy says @hannahrhooton thing is, its a fine line, and your char's do need to be TEENS for it to be YA. it could just hve crossover appeal #askagent

Conversation #4

Angela asks@MandyHubbard if you have a MC in the college age, 19-20, does that jump into adult or can it stay in YA, like L.A Candy? #askagent

Angela says@MandyHubbard...i'm guessing it comes down to voice? #askagent

Mandy says@angela_francis well, even voice isn't enough if char is 21+. LA candy is a celeb book, pubbed as YA because LCs fans are YA in reply to angela_francis

Angela says@MandyHubbard That's what I thought too, thanks!

Mandy says @angela_francis FEW YA books set in college sell... both to pubs and readers. Just very hard to pull off.

I guess this explains why there are so many YA books set in boarding schools, even in the US, where going to boarding school is pretty unusual! And come to think of it, I can't recall a book set in college. Hmmm. Time to rethink age/setting of my WIP...
I'm officially pro-Twitter. Although I'm not a Twitter pro*wink*, I've now passed the 100 tweet marks and am a lot more comfortable than I was even a month ago. Isn't it cool to be able to sit down on the computer and get a some confusion cleared up? A few years ago, the only way I would have approached an agent was if I was at a conference, and then there would have been a room full of people with their own questions, and I probably would have just listened. Twitter is awesome. Mandy Hubbard is awesome- she probably saved me thirty hours of rewrites by clearing this up early in my new WIP. 
Was anybody else enlightened by this?
Happy Writing! 


  1. Thanks for posting the thread. I'm not really Twitter savy, lol.

  2. Thanks, Kelly. I've had those same questions.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Kelly. Definitely some good food for thought.

    That was probably the biggest problem I had with the last manuscript I queried - the MC was 19, which, I discovered, is really tough to sell/market. Half my rejections were just, "Well, I'm afraid this is just too old to be YA."

    I don't know that WAYS TO FALL has the same problem. Even though you say Lara is only seventeen physically, she seems much older than that because she's lives for so many years. If you just said she was twenty or something, I don't think you'd have to change much else. Agent Hatton is definitely an adult - I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a teenage FBI agent:)

  4. Kerri- thanks. twitter has taken some getting used to- mainly to feel like i"m not eavesdropping on people and a poser!

    Ben- thanks. I hope it helps. I was thinking about making this a regular feature- translating good twitter threads into interview format. Part of my purpose was not to lose such good commentary in the twitterverse.

    Hey Krista- I had an agant I pitched to tell me very clearly that WAYS TO FALL is adult based on the writing sample- so I'm not questioning that. It's my next project- MC is 20yo college student- that is the issue.

    I actually considered writing agent Hatton as a young man stuck hanging out at work with his dad, but there's no way a 17-18 you could know the things he has to know and have the maturity, etc. Just wasn't the story I was writing.

    I hope this post will save some people some grief:) Rejection based on the age of the MC stinks, although I understand that there are marketing issues to consider.

  5. Very, very interesting! This does make me sad, though. You are not my only writing friend who has a novel with a protag of this age group, and I don't really get why it won't work. To me, this age-group seems like it would appeal up or down (teens and adults), so why not make it an official genre? Oh well ... maybe the publishing house that publishes the crossover books will start the trend and the rest will follow when it's successful. That's what happened with YA, right?


  6. I think it's a question of tension. When a 16-17 yo faces something terrible, it's during a turning point in their lives, they're still a kid, etc. so there's an added layer of conflict. When a 21 yo does the same thing, they're not going to get the same kind of sympathy form the reader because they're more mature and more likely to be able to handle things.

    Voldemort trying to kill a 20 yo wizard is a shame, but his attempt to kill Harry as a baby or as an 11 yo is terrifying. I think that's the psychology behind it. But that's my opinion, and a rather uninformed one at that;)

    At least Ways to Fall is squarely in the adult arena:) Thanks for the comment, Amy:)

  7. This hasn't always been true though. I don't know if you've read THE HERO AND THE CROWN yet, but Aerin is nineteen when the story starts. There's a lot of backstory, but . . . nineteen. And it won the Newbery Medal.

    Thanks for all of your work though. I'm sure you're right about the current age limits. But it seems a shame to discriminate against such an exciting age.

  8. Hey Myrna- I did read Hero and the Crown and you're right. I think this is one of those perceptions of what people want- maybe we'll see a big hit that breaks the rule and never hear this again, but for right now it's the prevailing wisdom.

    Nobody thought YA could pull in the adult readers until Harry Potter, after all. Thanks for the comment! I hope I didn't come across as laying down the law! That wasn't my intention. I think it's good to know what agents are saying, though. They're the ones talking to editors, etc.

  9. No, you didn't come across that way, and I've seen this before. I don't have any characters in that particular age group, so it only affects me as a reader. I'm just being opinionated ;)

  10. Hey Myrna- Opinions are very welcome here:) I think it's a silly rule, personally!