Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Young Adult fiction blog’

How To Tell Good Literary Agents From Bad Literary Agents, by Amy Kathleen Ryan

In my previous post, I discussed why a novelist should have an agent. What follows is a step by step process for how to tell the good agents from the bad.

A good agent doesn’t ask for money up front. Every book and magazine on being a writer will tell you this. Everything agents earn from you comes out of sales of your work. Most agents make about 15% on domestic sales and 20% on international sales. I’ve heard some agents are asking for a bit more but this is the basic guideline. Many good agents will also deduct some expenses from your take home pay, for example any travel, postage and long distance costs that were incurred during the sale of your manuscript. My agent does this and I’m okay with it. If someone asks for a “reading fee” or charges you for their editing services up front, I’d be very wary.

A good agent has a list of recent sales to reputable publishers and is capable of landing a decent advance. Most agents will list their clients on their website and you can check there for recent sales but the best way to determine an agent’s negotiating prowess is to buy an inexpensive subscription to The Literary Marketplace, where almost every sale to a publisher is trumpeted with a little code key for how much money the author landed for his/her manuscript. If an agent has gotten a “Significant Deal” or a “Major Deal” for a client within the last few years, you know this agent is capable of successfully running a bidding war. This doesn’t guarantee a bidding war for your work but at least you’ll know it’s a possibility.

A good agent gets good reviews from their clients. Before signing an agency contract, you can ask for references for your agent. I believe most agents are very willing to have current clients speak with prospective clients. You might want to ask things like how long it takes for the agent returns the author’s phone calls and emails, how long the author had to wait for the agent to submit their first book, and how the author would describe the agent’s communication style. I would caution you not to be too stringent with the way you evaluate these answers. A good agent will have a lot of clients and can get very busy, and might not always return calls/emails as promptly as you might wish. Also, I had to wait about six months for my agent to submit the first book I sold with her but I’ve never had to wait that long since. In other words, sometimes a good agent is worth waiting for. Only you can decide how long you’re willing to spend waiting for your agent to get around to you.

But how do you get an agent in the first place? My next post will answer that question. Stay tuned!


Amy Kathleen Ryan’s author website:

Amy Kathleen Ryan’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

Zen and Xander UndoneVibesGlowSpark    The CircleShades of Earth: An Across the Universe Novel (Across the Universe)Code Name Verity

Writing Teen Novels

Writing Novels For Teens Versus For Adults, by April Henry

I had published five books for adults before my first teen book came out. In fact, when I wrote it I thought it was a novel for adults that just happened to have a 16-year-old main character. But my agent, who represents a lot of Young Adult writers, broke the news to me: I had written a Young Adult book.

Since then, I’ve had a foot in both worlds. Every year, I usually write one book for adults and one book for teens. So what’s differente and what’s the same?



• All POV (point of view) characters must be kids (unless a very short walk on, like

the cop in Hoot).

• Parents or teachers cannot save the day; teens must. This is why you will so often find kids who are orphans, or who have a dead mom or non-functioning parents.

• YA lit has great built-in obstacles: cliques, coming of age, finding out who you are, peer pressure, family dynamics, dealing with parents divorce, prom, homecoming, falling in love for the first time, etc.

• Many YA books are in the first person, to help the reader more readily identify with the character.

• The books usually take place over a shorter period of time, usually no longer than a year.

• Books are typically much shorter- 50,000 words is common, versus say, 80,000 to 90,000 for adults (although fantasy is often longer).

• It’s okay to have swearing or fairly graphic sex, but it might limit how many teachers will assign your book to readers in your intended age group, or the age group you can appeal to, in hardcover (when kids don’t usually buy their own books). Graphic violence may even be a harder sell.

• An “issue-oriented” book, like a book about being a teen-aged father, or a book about having a sibling with leukemia, may garner a lot of librarian support. And librarian support is key to success in the YA world.


Pretty much anything goes.

Getting published


• You don’t necessarily need an agent, especially with books for younger readers.

This is more common for older writers who have developed relationships with editors.

• Editors still accept things from people they meet at conferences

• It’s tougher to get into children’s magazines, and there are fewer of them than magazines for adults.

• And in order to get a short story in a children’s anthology, you pretty much have to have published elsewhere.


• You have to have an agent for fiction.

• It’s possible to not be agented for non-fiction.

• There’s a great deal more opportunity for poems and short stories to be published in literary journals for adults.



• Your readership changes every few years as the readers grow up. They read your books only for a brief time period, say middle school, then move on to adult books. When these teens reache adulthood, they might not care about your next YA novel. That makes it very hard to develop a following. That’s one more reason why librarians are so important, because if they like your books, they will recommend them to each new wave of kids.

• At the same time, if you have a lot of books out there, kids will devour them and not care if they were published this year or five years ago.

• Kids have big emotions about everything, and their feelings about writers are no exception. They will pour out their stories to you, friend you on Facebook (and think you are really friends), hand you poems they wrote and ask what you think, and even ask you to sign their hands.

• Teens ask what adults secretly want to know “How much do you make?”


• When you write for adults, each book that is released supposedly increases your readership. If readers like your work, they will buy all your future books and your career builds on itself. A fan may stick with you for thirty years.

• Some adults will come to signings just to get your signature, because they see your book as collectible.

• Adults are cool and dispassionate.

Success of a book


• For children’s literature, there are more “professional” review options, like Hornbook or VOYA, than there are for adult books.

• Reviews trickle in for months after the book is published.

• Librarians are vital to success.

• There are many more opportunities for promotion in YA – libraries, schools, conferences, online, etc – opportunities that aren’t necessarily available to writers of adult books.

• Your publisher gives you a longer time to prove yourself via sales.

• It’s not unheard of for a picture book to be in print for 15 or more years.

• Your book might be named to one of the important library lists a year after publication (such as YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)

• Your book might be named to a state list years later (states like Texas can result in tons of sales)

• Either of the above can mean the sale of many copies over time.

• There’s a better chance you can actually make a living.


• Reviews come in much sooner for adult books.

• You have about 6-8 weeks to show success in hardcover.

• After that, most of your books are returned for credit and the new hard covers take their place.

• Librarians aren’t as important to the cycle.


April Henry’s author website:

April Henry’s bio page


United States (and beyond)


United Kingdom (and beyond)


Australia (and beyond)

Girl, StolenThe Night She DisappearedShock PointTorched    Rikers HighBecoming ChloeThe Raven Queen

Writing Teen Novels

Month In Review with Steve Rossiter (January 2013)

The Writing Teen Novels 2013 line-up was launched on January 1st with a diverse range of novelists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as monthly contributors. Each monthly contributor now has their first Writing Teen Novels article online.

Thank you to all the contributors, to everyone who has been reading the articles and those who have connected with Writing Historical Novels on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or  Tumblr, or via Novel Writing Quotes on Facebook or Google+.

The purpose of these Month In Review articles is to:

- provide a handy list of links to the articles for the past month, then to

- relate some of the content of these articles to my own novel writing to help novel writers and other interested people discover the month’s content and gain some insights into ways the month’s content can be engaged with in a practical context.

Articles for January 2013

What I Did Wrong And What I Did Right On The Way To Becoming A New York Times Bestselling Novelist by Beth Revis

Some Themes For Teen Novels by Elizabeth Wein

Why I Write Mysteries And Thrillers – And Read Them, Too by April Henry

I Was A Teenage Artist by Stephen Emond

Voice In Teen Novels by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Why I Write For Young Adults by Laurie Faria Stolarz

On Finding Story Ideas by Kate Forsyth

On Story Development by Andy Briggs

Teen Fiction: A Definition? by Bernard Beckett

Getting ‘Great Ideas’ For Novels by Carolyn Meyer

Combining Personal Experience And Imagination For Writing Novels by Kashmira Sheth

Why I Write Young Adult Novels by Lish McBride

What Is The Appeal Of Teen Dystopian Novels? by Sam Hawksmoor

How Reading Berlin Newspapers From The Fall Of 1918 Helped Me Write ‘My Brother’s Shadow’ by Monika Schroder

Why I Made The Switch To Writing Young Adult Novels, by Catherine Ryan Hyde (guest article)

On Creating Conflict (Secrets Of Narrative Drive) by Sarah Mussi

Choosing The Right Story For Your Teen Novel by Paul Volponi

Historical Teen Novels: Fact, Fiction And Friction by Pauline Francis

Writing Narrative Point Of View In Teen Novels by Diane Lee Wilson

Approaching the writing of teen novels

Beth Revis wrote: “Do the things you fear. Don’t try to be like everyone else. Care more about the story than the market.”

Elizabeth Wein wrote: “I don’t write teen novels. Most of my novels are about teens, but I have never once in my life set out to write a ‘teen novel’.”

Guest contributor Catherine Ryan Hyde: “It helps to remind myself that when I was 14, my favorite book and movie was Midnight Cowboy, though my parents didn’t know it. That’s how I assess the reading level of a teen.”

Laurie Faria Stolarz wrote: “I knew that I wanted to target readers that were like me as a young person – those who found themselves getting discouraged by reading, whose minds tended to wander as soon as they got bored on the page. I wanted to create high concept, page-turning books that would grab the reluctant reader and get them excited about reading.”

Lish McBride wrote: “The writing coming out of Young Adult and Middle Grade sections makes my imagination burn and my heart glow with pure, unabashed joy. There have always been writers and editors that take writing for kids seriously, but now they’re being let onto the playing field. It makes me happier than you can ever know to be part of that team.”

Paul Volponi wrote: “After having written 10 novels for young adults, I believe that the most challenging aspect of writing a YA novel is choosing the right story. Why? You’re probably going to live with that story every day for a long while. In my case, it usually takes me anywhere from 10 months to a year to complete a novel. Then, following the initial writing process, there will probably be several more months of working with the editor representing the publishing company, making modifications on the novel. So there is little doubt that you need to choose a story that inspires you.”

I am currently writing a teen historical novel set in western Poland in 1939. The basic premise is that a teenage boy living with his family in Bydgoszcz in western Poland discovers at the outbreak of WW2 that he was adopted and his biological parents want to take him to Berlin, but he has different ideas. The story follows him as he tries to bring his family in Bydgoszcz back together amidst the German invasion and occupation.

I live in Australia and, like Beth Revis recommends, I’m not being like everyone else; writing a teen historical novel set in wartime Poland is not an attempt to hitch onto market trends and be just like the current bestsellers. It has originality but can also fit firmly into genres such as teen novels, historical novels and wartime novels. Like Elizabeth Wein, I am writing about a teenage main character but not necessarily writing a ‘teen’ novel in the sense of following criteria to fit a specific idea of what ‘teen’ novels should be. The novel I’m writing is intended for teenage readers and adult readers. The subject matter means I would not be actively promoting the novel to pre-teen children, given the setting in the opening months of WW2 Poland and being written for teen-adult readers in mind, but, as Catherine Ryan Hyde indicated, many young readers read above the recommended age-range. I first read one of Stephen King’s adult horror novels when I was 9 and enjoyed it because it didn’t talk down and overly simplify things like many of the novels I had read that were recommended for my age. Whereas Laurie Faria Stolarz has an emphasis on catering for reluctant readers, my natural emphasis for teen readers is probably more toward creating something which will entertain and intellectually stimulate Honour Roll students and intelligent adults, while still being accessible and emotionally engaging for more reluctant readers. As Lish McBride pointed out, there is a lot of sophisticated and entertaining fiction available to teen readers now. My approach to my novel-in-progress is not to focus on a simplistic action-adventure approach to war, nor a simplistic anti-war morality tale, or something similar, but a story about things like family, friendship, courage, responsibility, joy, sorrow and striving against adversity. Another key aspect of my approach for this novel is in-depth research; I want my depiction of the setting to stand up to expert scrutiny as well as the story being entertaining and intellectually stimulating for teen and adult readers. All this amounts to a story I am happy to write, revise and edit over a long timeframe then discuss with people over an even longer timeframe.

Teen readers deserve novels which are not a simplified version of adult novels but sophisticated and entertaining novels created with as much effort and attention to detail as adult novels.


For more articles on writing novels you can check out Writing Historical Novels and Writing Novels in Australia.


Writing Teen Novels


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 193 other followers

%d bloggers like this: