Friday, February 4, 2011

SCBWI New York 2011: Ginger Clark!

During my time at the conference, I attended a breakout session by agent Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown Literary Agency.  She was super-informative and great to listen to!

Here's what Ginger Clark had to tell us:

Her list is about 60% children's book and 40% adult books.  In the children's market, she reps MG and YA.

Here's what she's looking for right now:

--Middle Grade mystery, fantasy and science fiction.
--YA Fantasy and Science Fiction, specifically: dystopia, steampunk, cyberpunk, space opera, and urban fantasy with under-represented magical creatures.
--YA contemporary and YA literary

(Can I just sidebar for a moment and say that a) She's the only agent I've ever heard specifically request cyberpunk, and I LOVE that, b) how amazing is the term space opera?  I want to write a space opera! and c) I also love the term "under-represented magical creatures" and kind of love Ginger Clark.)

Ginger thinks that publishers are finding MG a little tough right now because it's a strange market.  The picture book market is driven mostly by parents, as they're the ones shelling out the money.  On the flip side, the YA market is driven mostly by teens.  Middle grade is in a funny place because it's driven by both parents and the readers, and it can be tricky to market to both parents and kids simultaneously and be successful.

With the YA market, things are still going strong.  Ginger gave the recent history of YA in a nutshell, which looked something like this: we went from vampires, to fairies, to werewolves, to angels, to dystopia.

She had some interesting things to say about dystopia, which is still going strong and seems like it will be for the next few years.  Even though dystopia is technically categorized in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, she sees it much more in the survival genre.  Remember Julie of the Wolves?  Island of the Blue Dolphins?  In some ways, dystopia is far more related to them, because in survival books there's a disappearance of technology/the world as you knew it, and it's a very similar set-up in dystopian fiction.

She asked some of her book world friends what they think could be the next trend, and here's what some of them had to say:
--Historical fiction, particularly in the 1920s
--Romance-focused novel with less fantasy
--More dystopia
--More middle grade in general
--Harder science fiction
--Mind-bending psychological thrillers without magical creatures or special powers

Ginger Clark felt that there was a gap in the market for harder science fiction and historical fiction in particular.

She would like everyone to know that if you have written the teen version of Blade Runner, and if it's truly as good at Philip K. Dick's Blade Runner, that she wants it right now.


  1. Wow, Sara, this is some fascinating stuff, especially that part about Julie of The Wolves and Island of the Blue Dolphins being related to dystopia! But it makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

    Thanks for such a thorough recap of Ginger Clark's talk.

    So... less fantasy and more hard sci fi, or psychological thrillers, eh? Someone out there is bound to be writing that. I like the sound of more MG, myself.

    I hope you really do write a space opera. That would be cool!

  2. So glad to hear she likes fantasy. And I hope MG gets easier to sell since that's what I've written. Thanks for sharing.


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