So, what does that have to do with reading YA novels before querying? Well, a well-educated writer would likely have reviewed the Nelson Literary Agency website before sending in a query. While there, they might have noted our YA author clients. I think it's a wonderful idea to read Nelson Agency client books before submitting to us. Of course, this can get daunting if a writer is querying lots of agents, but I still think it's a fabulous idea. For example, before querying me, I recommend reading anything by Ally Carter, Sarah Rees Brennan, Simone Elkeles, Lucienne Diver, Mari Mancusi or the fabulous Miranda Kenneally. Yes, you can put this information in the query letter itself ("I recently read RULES OF ATTRACTION by Simone Elkeles and I really liked its edgy contemporary voice" or something like that).
In addition, there is information about me that you won't find on our website. Let's call it super-secret-insider info. Thanks to the amazing YA Highway for inviting me to this interview so I can share these juicy tidbits with you all!! Here goes - I represent all sub-genres of young adult literature. So, my personal suggestion would be to read across genre. Before querying any agent, read 3-4 novels that are selling well or getting great reviews or that you've heard about via word of mouth. Also, choose books released in the past 2 years so you know what is contemporary and read books by debut authors so you know what it takes to break in to the market. Some of my favorites: contemporary young adult (THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by AS King or TWENTY BOY SUMMER by Sarah Ockler), dystopian young adult (MATCHED by Ally Condie or DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth), young adult fantasy (ASH by Malinda Lo or THE BLUE SWORD by Robin McKinley are on my all-time favorites list), and a few others (GIRL PARTS by John M. Cusick or REVOLVER by Marcus Sedgwick).
It's nice (although not required) to receive a query letter that clearly states "since you love Robin McKinley, this YA fantasy might be right up your alley." I don't consider that brown nosing - I consider that good research. Or, "since you represent Miranda Kenneally, I think you might like my fun, romantic contemporary YA novel XYZ." This proves to me that you've picked me, specifically, to potentially represent your work (not just me-out-of-a-phone-book). This is exactly what I do when submitting novels to editors! I match books to editors based on what I read at home.
My name is Jordan Woods, I’m seventeen, and last year, I blew it in the final seconds of the Tennessee state championship football game. This year, I can’t let that happen or I’ll never get a scholarship to play ball in college. I have a lot to prove, what, with an NFL star for a father – a father who doesn’t think I should be playing football. Why wouldn’t a famous quarterback want his kid to follow in the family footsteps?
I’m a girl.
But I’ve been playing quarterback since I was seven, so everyone’s gotten used to me by now. I’m a normal teenage girl. Well, as normal as I can be. I mean, obviously I think Justin Timberlake is a mega hunk, but I’m also over six feet tall and can launch a football fifty yards. Other ways I’m not normal? A girl who hangs with an entire football team must hook up all the time, right?
I’ve never had a boyfriend and most people think I’m gay. Hell, I’ve never even kissed a guy. But that might be about to change because the hottest guy, Ty Green, just moved here from Texas. Just the sight of him makes me want to simultaneously fly and barf. It turns out that he’s also a quarterback, and he’s a hell of a lot better than me. Last year, Ty led his team to win the Texas state championship.
And I’m scared. What if Coach gives my position away? What if Ty isn’t interested in me? The worst fear of all? What if Ty distracts me from my dreams of playing ball in college?
And why is my best friend, our star wide receiver, acting so strangely all of a sudden?
SCORE, my 67,000-word YA novel, explores when it’s okay to make compromises in life, and when to take risks. My protagonist writes poetry (it’s a hobby that she keeps hidden from her teammates), so some sections of the manuscript are written in verse. While Catherine Murdock’s DAIRY QUEEN series also focuses on a female football player, my novel is different in that my protagonist doesn’t just decide to play football one day. Football is the only life my protagonist has ever known. When this new guy moves to town, she begins to explore the femininity she has rejected her entire life. She also faces a serious struggle with unrequited love, though not in the way you might expect.
Since your agency represents Ally Carter, I thought you might be interested. I also believe you’ll enjoy the love story. I attended American University, where I studied creative writing and literature. As a tomboy who grew up playing football during recess and didn’t get her first kiss until the age of sixteen, embarrassingly, I am highly qualified to write this novel.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
You can follow Miranda at her website, on Twitter or Facebook, and visit Sara on Facebook, Twitter, the Nelson Literary Agency website, or Publishers Marketplace.