Authors – Cut Velvet!

If you ever worked in the garment business you’ll remember the joke about the dress manufacturer who hears that taffeta is going to be big next season and buys a huge amount of it,  only to learn that everyone will be wearing velvet instead. Ruined, he jumps out the window. As he plummets to the sidewalk he notices in a window that his friend Murray is manufacturing a taffeta skirt. “Murray!” he shouts. “Cut velvet!”

I was reminded of this story when I read a Publishers Weekly report by Diane Roback on the Bologna Book Fair, a major worldwide convocation of children’s book publishers. Roback’s title was YA Hot, Digital Not at Upbeat Bologna, and she quoted a number of editors and agents who proclaimed that the superheated trend in young adult fiction, propelled by such engines as Harry Potter and Twilight, continues unabated. For instance, a Disney subsidiary rights official reported that “People are saying ‘we want to see YA fiction.’ And they’re asking specifically for YA, not just middle-grade and not just series.”

However, before you rush to develop another young adult series – remember that for every bubble there is a pin. Can’t happen? Party’s going to last forever? One agent at the fair told Roback that a number of publishers told him their lists are YA-saturated and “what we really want is good middle-grade.” And Random House’s Beverly Horowitz, one of the children’s book industry’s doyennes, thinks the trend may move to younger readers, boasting that she has an “otherworldly” middle-grade project in the works. Agent Simon Lipskar of Writers House elicited a preemptive offer from Random House for a middle-grade trilogy.

For the moment the only certain trend is that children’s books remain one of the few sectors of the publishing ecology that are making money, and the field is equally divided between books for big kids and for little kids. Indeed, YA books may have the edge because their readership often crosses over into the adult world.

But how many YA’s are so fabulously successful that they will be snapped up by grownups? Do you want to be the first author to arrive after the gates shut, leaving you and your agent standing with a perfectly wonderful and utterly unsalable YA project? It might behoove you to hit the bookstores, pick up and study some middle grade novels, and try your hand at one. That way you won’t be left with a warehouse full of taffeta.

Richard Curtis


2 Responses to Authors – Cut Velvet!

  1. NewGuyDave says:

    I like the new format of E-Reads–it’s sharp. The “What do you like to read?” drop-down works great and the positioning is better than before. All the best.

  2. Thanks very much, NGD. We’re very proud of the new look and are working on even better features and functions.


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